With its blend of fresh fruit, light red wine and maybe a dash of brandy, sangria works best as a refreshing accompaniment to summertime foods. But it's also versatile enough to work as a festive winter drink served with heavier appetizers if you make it with a full bodied, dark red wine. Whether you make sangria with red wine, white wine, called sangria-blanco, or even hard cider, it needs flavors in foods that contrast and balance the sweet fruit.
Fire Up the Grill
The smoky and somewhat bitter char from grilled foods cuts through the sweetness of sangria. Steaks, whether marinated or not, are just one of your options, with the steak's savory umami flavor also contrasting with sangria's fruitiness. Charred vegetables, such as corn on the cob, potatoes, onions or peppers share a sweetness with sangria, but grilling them adds enough additional smoky flavors that they pair well with sangria, too.
Feel the Heat
Whether the heat in your foods comes from a spicy Mexican enchilada or rellano, stuffed pepper appetizers or spicy grilled brat sausages with charred green bell peppers, sangria's fruity flavors and sugars can stand up to the heat. What's more, the hot food and spicy flavors benefit from the cold contrast of icy sangria to refresh your palate and whet your appetite for another bite of heat.
Make It Rich
Rich foods such as cheese, avocados and hummus with olive oil offer a contrast to sangria in both texture and mouthfeel, with the fats from the foods offsetting the acidity of sangria's wine and brandy. Serve the rich ingredients in appetizers, such as guacamole with salty tortilla chips, a cheese plate with crackers or crunchy toasted baguette slices, cheese sticks wrapped with slices of rich ham, or hummus with pita chips.
If you use a full-bodied red wine for sangria along with winter fruit, such as tangerines and cranberries, and winter spices, such as cinnamon and allspice, your sangria provides warmth in addition to fruitiness and works well for a winter celebration. The same principle of pairing contrasting food flavors applies in winter as in summer. For instance, serve a wedge of baked brie with festive cranberries or cherry chutney or a bowl of mushroom pate as appetizers for a holiday meal.
Susan Lundman began writing about her love of cooking, ingredient choices, menu planning and healthy eating after working for 20 years on children's issues at a nonprofit organization. She has written about food online professionally for ten years on numerous websites, and has provided family and friends with homemade recipes and stories about culinary adventures. Lundman received her M.A. from Stanford University.