Music for Sipping: "Ode to Sangria" by Anthony Hill
Lou Amdur of Lou: A Wine Bar is a walking encyclopedia of wine knowledge. As Jonathan Gold has written, Lou "can probably talk more profoundly about biodynamic wines than anyone who hasn't actually buried a dung-filled animal horn at midnight during a full moon." For all his knowledge, however, Lou is happy to answer regular-people wine questions. Starting this week, Squid Ink will check in regularly with Lou to get wine-drinking advice for those of us who care less about brix and terroir, and more about the most essential wine question to us: Does it taste good?
SQUID INK: It's been flipping hot this week. What's your secret to a perfect sangria?
LOU: You know how to make sangria? Take lemons and oranges, slice them, put them in a pitcher, mash them a little bit with the end of a wooden spoon and add a little sugar. People add different things. They add apples. You can add whatever you want, but it MUST contain orange and lemon slices. Never lime. Lime plus wine, to me, equals vomit. Some people also like to add brandy or triple sec. I don't. Triple secs are all commercial flavorings. You've gone to all the trouble of using fresh fruit and a delicious wine, then why are you adding a flavoring to it?
Okay, lemons, oranges, maybe apples, no triple sec, no limes because limes plus wine equals vomit. Now what?
Balance the flavors. You want the acidity of the oranges and lemons to be balanced with the sugar. But you never know how juicy the fruit you'll be using is. You can't predict that. So you add some sugar, then if you need more, add more. I love eating the macerated slices of fruit. If you slice them thin enough, by day two, it's kind of pickled a little bit by the wine. You get a lot more out of the fruit if you slice it really thinly.
What type of wine do you use? Does it make any difference?
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The best wine to make sangria out of is a Valdiguié. It's a grape that was grown in California and mislabeled as Beaujolais. Remember you used to see wines that said Gamay Beaujolais? You don't see that anymore because we realized that a lot of that "Gamay Beaujolais" was actually Valdiguié, which is a completely different grape. A few people still make a Valdiguié. One is named J. Lohr. You can go to fucking BEV MO and get it. They make a Valdiguié that costs, like, eight bucks. Some people think it doesn't really matter what type of wine you use for sangria. But I think if you use a wine that is already a little sangria-ish, it just brings it to the next level.
Is that it?
No. You really want the alcohol in the wine to begin breaking down the cellulose a bit in the fruit and extracting the juices naturally. There's one more simple thing, which is that it has to sit in your fridge overnight. HAS TO. Otherwise, it's just fruit salad and wine which sounds like something you might have in prison or something -- like Pruno.
Lou, 724 Vine Street, Hollywood, (323) 962-6369. www.louonvine.com.