I FIRST drank sangria in Madrid while watching Alec Guinness and Omar Sharif make Dr Zhivago. That was in 1965.
How I came to be there is another story, but my host was considerate enough on a scorching day to produce a frosted jug of it and so save me from terminal dehydration.
I was telling the story last week to John Hooper. He is the marketing force behind the Unbelievable Red (A Vine Time August 4) which has been selling by the case load since reaching our shelves a couple of months back.
And the topic arose because Mount Vernon, the family estate he represents, has brought out an innovative sangria of its own packed in a 1000ml plastic bottle with a festive Flamenco label in recognition of its Spanish origin.
Sangria, despite being red, must be served cold, and is best drunk in hot weather. We haven't had much of that recently, but on one of our warmer days last week I opened the Flamenco, poured it over ice and served with sliced orange and lemon.
Sangria recipes will tell you that choice of ingredient in the mix is a personal matter and my memories of the Spanish version are of cinnamon, cloves and citrus. The Mount Vernon has the cinnamon and citrus plus a selection of distant spices which remain a trade secret. But if you have your own favourites add them in.
The base wine is the same pinotage used in the Unbelievable Red, so it is certainly not the cultivar I tasted in Madrid. But the fruity nature of pino makes it an ideal base for sangria and, with alcohol content pared from 13% to 8%, it is a welcome new and affordable (less than R30) option for braai or beach.
John also had in his bag the white companion to the Unbelievable Red, which I have yet to try, and a Three Peaks red blend called Cantata which sells for slightly less than our R50 benchmark. This is clearly a step up on the Unbelievable as the price suggests, and when Platter gets around to it, I expect a 3½-4-star rating.
Wine judge Dave Hughes describes it as having a "rich, deep, well-flavoured mouth with loads of ripe mulberry, plum and dark cherry flavours .... subtle tannins and fine acidity".
And as he and I were born in the same nursing home in the same small Rhodesian town in the same year I'm happy to say I fully concur.