Harvest Sangria: The wine-lover's answer to grape allergy

Given my grape allergy, you can imagine I miss out on a lot of delicious things. Chicken Marsala. Boeuf Bourguinon. Cinnamon raisin buns. Sangria. I do alright with most things, but every once in a while I feel a little deprived. Especially on the Sangria.

Now, every place I've worked that made sangria used vodka in it, but my brother (whom I do trust as an expert in the field of alcohol's history) informs me that sangria is intended to be a low-alcohol version of wine, hence juicing it down. So, this is more of an exploration of sangria than a true recipe, but we're going to go for it. The important thing to note is, make the flavors work together. This recipe was intended to be a seasonal-foods recipe, hence the name. In effect, this is basically a party punch.

Things You Need:

  • Wine! You can use grape wines, obviously, but here we're using mead/honey wine. Because I had a 3/4 bottle of mead that I couldn't drink straight. Make the wine about 50% of your total volume, if you want to retain any of the effects of the alcohol--that will bring it down to the ABV of your average beer. 
  • Fruit! You need fruit cut into chunks. Make themes! Use citrus, stone fruits, pome fruits (those would be apples & pears), even squash! Make this about 25% of your volume when steeping. 
  • Juice! Obviously, your juice choice will reflect your other choices. You don't have to use oranges and orange juice, though. Maybe have orange chunks and lime juice, or even oranges and cherry juice. Use your imagination and experiment a bit! And if you want this lower in alcohol, go ahead and add more juice. 
  • Sugar: OPTIONAL. I did use a tablespoon of sugar to macerate the fruit a bit, since it was pears and I was only steeping overnight. Most sangria recipes I found had a ton of added sugar, but fruit wines are a LOT sweeter than most grape wines you'd use for sangria (which I get the impression is a way to get rid of wines that have gone a little sour or aren't of the best quality).
  • Liquor! Totally optional. I'd say that adding liquor takes it from "sangria" into "punch" category. Vodka is often a nice neutral flavor, but explore a bit here too. 
  • Bubbles! This gets added later, after you strain the fruit, so it's 25% of your finished volume or about the same as the juice. You can use champagne in regular sangria, but for a grape allergy the options are a little more limited. Some recipes I saw use lemon-lime soda, so clearly the bubbles are for bubbles, not strictly for adding more alcohol, and this might be a nice spot to tone down the alcohol a bit. Sparkling cider, even a flavored one that meshes with your other selections, might be a way to go. 

Things We Used:
  • Wine: 1 bottle dark mead, 1 bottle light mead; I think it would have been better with all dark mead, but we couldn't find it again. 
  • Fruit: Pears & pumpkin; the pumpkin was dry, stringy, and very disappointing. I sprinkled garam masala & nutmeg on it before I roasted it (and kind of wished I'd roasted the pears with it too), and the pumpkin did add a small amount of flavor to the batch that if I'd had a quality product would have been even nicer. 
  • Juice: Apple cider & sweetened cranberry juice; I think this would have been even better with Unsweetened cranberry juice! 
  • Sugar: I used a little sugar (wished I'd used brown or maple) to juice up the fruit a bit before I mixed it in, and that had nice results. Again, make sure you pick something that meshes with your fruit selection! White sugar is always a good neutral flavor, but if you have options that will add a depth of flavor, use them!
  • Bubbles: 2 bottles Sparkling apple cider; I didn't want to overpower the rest of the flavors with apple, but options were limited. I'd have gone for a pear cider in this, just for a little more depth of flavor. 

How to Make It: 
  1. Chop the fruit! Roast off anything that won't be good raw (like squash). Make sure you take out any peels that will be too bitter. We did peel our pears, but I've seen plenty of sangria having citrus with peels still attached. 
  2. Sprinkle about a tablespoon of sugar onto your fruit, and let rest 1 hour at room temp. Cover with a shower cap, lid, or tea towel if you have fruit ties. 
  3. Steep the fruit in the wine overnight. We also added the juice, but here's my thoughts on that: If you just bury the fruit in wine, you can let it steep overnight on the counter which is going to get you better flavor extraction because of both temperature and acidity. You might not be happy about the results of doing that with fruit juice as well though, because it will start to ferment but not finish and that can give very unpredictable results on flavor (besides you know, alcohol content). 
  4. If you have two overnights to steep, go ahead and add the juice to steep overnight in the fridge. If not, add the juice, let it steep on the counter for a couple hours, and then strain the solids out. If the solids look nice, you can use some of them as garnish. Here we strained the pumpkin strands so they wouldn't clog the pour spout, and left the pear chunks for fun. 
  5. Add the bubbly! Right at service. Slowly so as to not lose the bubbles. Stir gently & serve. 


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