Officially summer has arrived, and here at least the weather is finally hot and sunny. It has been a long, wet and cool spring, but hopefully that is now in the past. For me Spain is a great country all year round, but come in summer to enjoy it at its best. The people are more relaxed, the open air restaurants and terraces are alive with people enjoying themselves….. life is good.
Most Spaniards drink, I would also suggest most Spaniards drink in moderation. Most Spaniards do not go out to get drunk, and if they return home a little the worse for wear is more a side effect of being out for a long period of time. They eat something whilst drinking and often drink less actual alcohol as they dilute the wine they drink. Some of these drinks are well known, like Sangría, other are far less so….. so let’s have a look at some wine drinks for those long summer evenings:
Most people have heard of sangría, and there are thousands of recipes out there. For me there is just one secret to good Sangría, and indeed all the other recipes today……… and that is strong-flavoured wine. All these recipes dilute the actual wine, so unless you start off with a strong-flavoured wine you are probably not going to be able to taste anything when you have finished. It doesn’t have to be expensive, quite often the cheaper wines are in fact the best.
For a simple sangría put some wine in a large jug then just add in some fizzy orange to taste. Slice in some citrus fruit and add a good quantity of ice.
Tinto de Verano
This is just a mixture of red wine and lemonade. The lemonade used is the one that doesn’t really taste much of lemonade! They use something more like Sprite or 7-Up. The local brands are quite cheap and drunk in relatively large quantities. Although wines are changing, typically you could cut them with a knife and they went down a lot better mixed with lemonade!
You might not have heard of this one, but again it is popular. It is a mixture of wine and coca cola…… I know, strange combination. Often drunk by the younger generation particularly at parties. I guess the wine keeps you happy and the coca cola keeps you awake?
Last, but certainly not least….. sopetas.
I first had sopetas more than twenty-five years ago on one of my first trips to Spain. I was invited to spend a few days in the Pyrenees with my then future parents-in-law. I was in the Tena valley, in a town called Sallent. A really beautiful place which I will no doubt talk about in more detail another day. At this point I just wanted to mention one unforgettable evening I spent with my future brothers-in-law, their friends and of course my future wife in a town just down the road from Sallent.
We all piled into the family’s Peugeot 404 and went down the valley to a place called El Pueyo de Jaca, which sits in the Valle de Tena valley, right on the edge of the Bubal Reservoir. It’s a beautiful spot and very well worth a visit!
At some point in the evening we found ourselves in the gardens of a quaint little bar enjoying a bowl of sopetas. As you will see from the recipe below, sopetas are sweet and fruity and go down all too easily…….
I recall that we ended up playing cards. Now I am no stranger to cards, my grandparents loved cards and as a child I often played with them. They taught me many games, from simple luck based ones to those requiring more skill, like whist. We used to play for money…… and my grandfather always liked to end with a couple of rounds of luck based games to give us a chance to win some of our money back!
I unfortunately did not know any Spanish card games so we ended up playing a game I knew called “cheat”. For those of you not familiar with the game, you win by getting rid of all your cards. The cards are placed on the table, face down so that nobody can see which cards you have actually played. The difficulty comes with having to follow on from the cards played by the previous person. You do have to state what cards you have played, but you don’t have to tell the truth! If you can’t follow on, you have to cheat. If you are caught out, you lose.
It was decided that as a punishment the loser would have to drink sopetas…….. oh the follies of youth…….
It may have been my idea to play “cheat”, but I still lost, mainly due to the fact that we were playing with a Spanish deck of cards. The Spanish deck you see has no 8, 9 or 10’s, the sequence jumps straight from the 7 to the “jack”. The Spanish deck therefore only has forty cards. I lost count of the number of times I said that I had played an 8 or a 10…… and was caught out!
As John Candy said in the film Splash:
“You see, drinking is a matter of algebraic ratio. How drunk you get is caused by the amount of alcohol you consume in relation to your total body weight.”
Luckily I am over 6ft tall and have a reasonable body mass and as a consequence of which I survived the evening, just!
Serves 2 people
420g Tin peaches in syrup (nett weight)
Chill the wine well in the fridge.
Drain the syrup into a bowl. Chop the peaches and place into the bowl.
Using the empty peach tin as a measure, fill once with red wine and pour into the bowl.
Add sugar to taste.
The sopetas should be cold enough as the wine was already chilled. Add in some ice cubes if you want it even cooler.
Well if you are still sober after this week’s article, I would encourage you to drop me a line via the comments section of the blog. If you doubt your eloquence, or indeed can’t really focus on the keyboard, might I suggest you leave any comments for another day…….
tsp – Teaspoon – 5ml
tbsp – Tablespoon – 15ml
2016 Lincoln W. Betteridge