Relief Pitcher

Put down your pint glass and reach for something sweeter: Sangria.

By Tom Colligan July 20, 2009 Published in the August 2009 issue of Portland Monthly


Sangria at the Heathman

IT’S NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE to imagine drinking my way through a blissful Portland summer without a refrigerator full of our superlative local beers. But every year, somewhere in the thick of the August heat, I begin to miss my faithful rainy-season companion: red wine. My annual hot-weather dalliance with hops and malt almost feels like cheating. Still, my bibulous loyalties are likely of little concern to the guests sweltering around my picnic table. On such occasions, there’s nothing that can refresh them—and restore my off-season infatuation with the grape—like a glass of well-crafted sangria.

The traditional Spanish wine punch comes in both white and red varieties, and seems to invite experimentation. Yet we’ve all had disappointing versions—jammy concoctions swimming with mealy apples and soggy cinnamon sticks. So when giving in to our own creative impulses, it’s best to consult someone who’s stared down this pitcher before. Jeff Groh, sommelier at the Heathman Restaurant and Bar, says that making sangria is something of a Sunday-afternoon sport for his fellow oenophiles, who see an awful lot of surplus wine just begging to be used. Groh offers the following advice: “Your best bets are the Spanish reds from the hot, southern region of Jumilla, where the wines are cheap, ripe, and strong.” A good dose of citrus helps to give the drink its bracing acidity, so use the best of whatever fresh summer fruit—peaches, plums, cherries, nectarines—you can find.