Sip your way through Spain

Food is an important part of Spanish culture, but no meal would be complete without something refreshing to wash it down with.

We take a look at three of Spain's most delicious exports and leave you with a recipe for fresh, fruity sangria to get the fiesta started!

Cava
As Spain's equivalent to champagne, cava is a light, dry sparkling wine that has a very important place in Catalan culture and cookery.

The word cava literally means "underground cellar", and its annual production volume is approximately 12.5 million cases. This is highest for a sparkling wine made by the same traditional method as champagne and second only to true champagne. It's an important part of Catalan and Spanish family tradition and is often consumed at celebrations like baptisms, marriages, banquets, dinners and parties.

After the wine undergoes fermentation it is poured into heavy-duty wine bottles. The winemaker adds a mixture of sugar and yeast to the wine so that the wine will undergo a second fermentation. The bottle is then capped, trapping carbon dioxide gas n the bottle which ultimately produces the bubbles.
Try it either as an aperitif, or with one of the combination dishes of poultry cooked with fruit for which Catalonia is famous.

Sherry
Poor old sherry - for many years it had a reputation of being a sweet drink enjoyed mainly by grandparents. But people are slowly starting to realise that sherry is a worthy drink for all wine lovers. It is being lauded for its diversity, depth and deliciousness, as it finally comes out of the pantry and into the drinks cabinet.
Sherry has a long history of serving everyone from Christopher Columbus to Shakespeare, and is a fortified wine produced in southwest Spain's "Sherry Triangle." This triangle consists of the three sunny towns of Puerto de Santa María, Jerez and Sanlúcar de Barrameda.

Sherry wines must go through a solera system for adequate aging. This is basically a blending system, where the youngest Sherries are blended into a series of casks holding progressively older Sherries. So sherries don't really have a vintage date, as they are really a blend of many years.

Sangria
The real origins of this drink are unknown; however we do know that it became popular in Spain during the 1800s. The name "Sangria" comes from the Latin word meaning "Colour of blood", and it was first introduced to the world at New York's World Trade Fair in 1964. Obviously, it was a huge hit and sangria is now enjoyed all over the world.

When you think of sangria, fresh summer fruits spring to mind and the beauty of this drink is that once you've got the base sorted you can tweak it according to your tastes.

Some people prefer to make it using white wine, and this is known as sangria blanca. Or you can add cava to make sparkling sangria.

Here's a basic sangria recipe from The Cook's Illustrated that we think will help get your summer party started. It's important to note that they tested it with both expensive and inexpensive wines and found the cheaper ones actually had a better flavour! 

Feel free to fiddle around and come up with your own concoctions. Use all sort of chopped up fruit, including orange, lemon, lime, apple, peach, melon, berries, pineapple, grape and mango. Come up with your own flavours and make a big jug for your next barbecue.

Ingredients:
• 1 (750ml) bottle inexpensive, fruity, medium-bodied red wine, chilled (Rioja works well)
•  2 large juice oranges, washed; one orange sliced; remaining orange juiced
•  1 large lemon, washed and sliced
•  1/4 cup granulated white sugar (I like to use superfine sugar)
• 1/4 cup Triple Sec (or Cointreau if you've got the cash!)

Directions:
•  Add sliced orange and lemon and sugar to large pitcher. Mash gently with wooden spoon until fruit releases some juice, but is not totally crushed, and sugar dissolves, about 1 minute.
•  Stir in orange juice, Triple Sec, and wine
•  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or even overnight (no longer than about 8 hours before serving though)
•  Before serving, add 6 to 8 ice cubes and stir briskly to distribute settled fruit and pulp; serve immediately.

What's your favourite Spanish beverage? Tell us about it in the comments below. Then head to Twitter and Facebook to share your travel stories with the rest of the Peregrine community.

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