'A classic summertime drink'

Open a bottle of your favorite wine, and add some fruit, some brandy and a little sunshine for the Perfect Sangria

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This weekend will be filled with Memorial Day celebrations — the unofficial start of summer in New England (the official start is Friday, June 21) — and Saturday is National Wine Day. Hmm, a weekend kicking off summer and a day celebrating wine ... seems like the perfect time for sangria!

"Sangria is a classic summertime drink. It's essentially wine, fruit juice and a splash of brandy — a Spanish fruit punch," said Dominique DeVito, co-owner of Hudson-Chatham Winery in Ghent, N.Y., and author of "Seasonal Sangria: 101 Delicious Recipes to Enjoy All Year Long." "It's very versatile — you can take any wine, any or all fruit, and mix up a batch. In Spain, it's a mid-day cocktail served over ice." She added sangria's popularity in the United States was launched at the World's Fair in New York City in 1964 (although travelers to Spain were already acquainted with it) and it has since become more and more popular.

"It's the kind of drink that's not too over-the-top. It's fruity and can be dry or sweet," DeVito said. "Use any kind of wine and fruit. There are so many kinds of fruit juice and seltzers, combinations of frozen berries and fruit. Find what is interesting and add the wine. You can also add brandy, gin or rum. Gin is great with limes and rum with tropical fruits. If you're using a white wine for the sangria, add some vodka."

When making a sangria, DeVito said there is no right wine to use. "It's a matter of preference. It's a good way to use up a bottle you've had a glass or two out of or an older wine you've had on hand awhile and you're not sure if the flavor is still all there."

Classic fruits used in sangria include apples, oranges, blueberries, blackberries, watermelon, honeydew, cherries, mango, red raspberries and boysenberries. DeVito advised freezing the melons and mango so they don't break down in the sangria and adding them to the wine mixture before chilling it in the refrigerator.

What should you serve with sangria? "Sunshine and happy people," was DeVito's immediate response. She added it goes great with paella or with anything grilled — barbecued chicken, pulled pork or especially "beautiful" with ribs.

Hudson-Chatham Winery will host its 12th Annual Sangria Festival from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 10, at the winery in Ghent. In addition to regular wine tastings in the tasting room, the festival features five fresh sangrias, Maria Zemantauski playing flamenco guitar, food trucks and tarot card readings. The festival itself is free to attend, ticket prices for sangria or wine tasting are a la carte. For more information, visit www.hudsonchathamwinery.com.

Until then, why not try some of DeVito's creations at home?

BASIC SANGRIA

(Courtesy of Dominique DeVito)

INGREDIENTS:

1 bottle (750 ml) dry red wine

1/2 cup orange juice

1 fresh orange, cut into bite-size pieces

1 apple, cored and cut into bite-size pieces

1 shot of brandy

DIRECTIONS:

Stir all ingredients together and let sit in the refrigerator a few hours before serving.

THE CLASSIC

(Courtesy of Dominique DeVito)

"This is how sangria started, with oranges, apples, and brandy. You can use regular seltzer instead of lemon seltzer, but I like the extra zing of the flavoring. If this is the first sangria you make —and it's a great one to get started with — get yourself off to a good start and feel free to improvise to suit your taste. Add more brandy, if you want. Add some sugar, or top with lemon-lime soda instead of seltzer. Remember, sangria should taste good to you. It's a fun, fruity, refreshing wine punch."

Serves 4 to 6

INGREDIENTS:

1 bottle (750 ml) dry red wine

2 oranges, sliced thin in whole or half rounds

2 Granny Smith apples, cored and seeded, cut into bite-sized chunks

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1/4 cup brandy or triple sec

Ice

1 cup lemon seltzer

DIRECTIONS:

Combine all ingredients, but the seltzer, in a large pitcher or container. Cover and refrigerate for 4 or more hours. Add ice and seltzer and stir. Serve.

PEACHY KEEN

(Courtesy of Dominique DeVito)

"Another sangria that is perfect for summer is this one, which should be made as often as possible during peach season when the fruit is simply succulent."

Serves 4 to 6

INGREDIENTS:

1 bottle (750 ml) sparkling wine, very cold

1 cup bite-sized peach pieces (skins on is fine)

1 cup blueberries, frozen

1/4 cup peach schnapps

DIRECTIONS:

In a bowl, combine the peach pieces, blueberries, and schnapps. Stir to combine.

Into 4 to 6 champagne flutes, ladle 2 spoonfuls of fruit. Top each glass with sparkling wine. Repeat as desired with any remaining fruit and wine, being sure to keep the wine chilled.

STRAWBERRY LEMONADE SANGRIA

(Courtesy of Dominique DeVito)

"It's our most popular sangria. You can play with it and don't feel married to the recipe. Try adding some blueberries."

INGREDIENTS:

1 bottle (750 ml) blush-style wine

12 ounce container frozen lemonade concentrate, yellow or pink

12 ounces water

Pint of fresh strawberries, tops cut off and quartered (frozen strawberries may be substituted)

DIRECTIONS:

Mix the wine, lemonade and water in pitcher and add strawberries. Put in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Add ice to the pitcher. Serve with fresh mint, lemon slice or strawberry garnishes.


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