Buzz: Hey, Marnie, I was at a boardwalk bar and they were offering wine cocktails! I thought you couldn't make a mixed drink with wine. What's the deal?
Marnie: People often assume that wine is sacrosanct, that mixing it will somehow ruin it. But, it's just like any other drink in that it often tastes good mixed with other things. Nowadays, people are getting past these hang-ups and I'm seeing more wine-based drinks out there.
Buzz: OK, now that I think about it, I did have a mimosa once and that has champagne in it, which is technically wine.
Marnie: For some reason, sparkling wine cocktails like that one or the kir royale have never raised eyebrows, but as Americans have gotten into fine wine in recent decades there's been a greater reluctance to adulterate still wine with other flavors. Yet, wine drinks have been made and drunk forever and are far more common in the regions where wine is made. The original kir of Burgundy, dry white wine sweetened with a splash of cassis liqueur, was around long before the sparkling kir royale variation jazzed up the recipe.
Buzz: Give me an example of a still-wine mixed drink.
Marnie: Sangria, which traces its roots to Spain, is certainly the most common of today's wine drinks. Early on, they were made with red wines, but now white and pink versions are almost as common. While there are endless variations, the core concept is to add fresh fruit or juice to wine and spike it with a little brandy or liqueur. Since wine is made from fruit it partners very well with juices. Many wine cocktails follow the same principle of diluting and sweetening wine.
Buzz: Ha! Sounds like the return of the wine cooler.
Marnie: Not really. The so-called "wine coolers" of the 1980s shouldn't have been allowed to call themselves wine-based at all. They were technically malt beverages, meaning that their alcohol came entirely from fermenting grains as for beer, in order to be sold through beer stores. However, that was only clear if you read the fine print. Ironically, beer can be made with fruit or extracts and still call itself beer, but wine drinks are required to label themselves "flavored wines" even if all that's added is real fruit.
Buzz: I love fruit in the summer and I'm heading to the state store to buy some.
Marnie Old is a local sommelier and wine author known for practical advice with real-world relevance. Buzz's musings are interpreted by Daily News Assistant Managing Editor Gar Joseph.