Sometimes companies send unsolicited stuff to the Houston Press office hoping that we’ll try these items and, of course, write about the experience. Occasionally, that works, especially if they turn out to be good products (but there are never any guarantees). Past deliveries have included review copies of books and CDs, Dunkin’ Donuts (yay!), a Shipley Donut box that turned out to be a Trojan horse filled with fresh fruit and promotional materials on a vaping conference (boo!), healthy boxed meals we actually appreciated, award-winning Texas wine and even the occasional sumptuous holiday lunch.
A small box arrived a few weeks ago, addressed to the food editor, who happens to be me. I grabbed it, set it aside and remembered to actually open it a few days later.
Inside were two, 500-milliliter boxes of Beso Del Sol pre-mixed sangria, one red and one white. Each held three, 5-ounce pours. (For some people, that’s a single serving — or at least a good afternoon.)
An accompanying letter pointed out the sustainable packaging, the all-natural ingredients and the facts that the Beso Del Sol sangria boxes are “available at 7-Eleven stores and cost $4.99.” It was at this point that I nearly fell over laughing.
Well, who wouldn’t want to try the very best sangria money can buy at a convenience store? Unfortunately, there are very few 7-Eleven stores in Houston. However, a quick check of the Beso Del Sol website revealed that it was also available at CVS, Randalls and Whole Foods, all of which have locations all over town.
The instructions recommended pouring the sangria over cut-up fresh fruit and ice — just as if it were made from scratch. Blueberries and cubed Pink Lady apples fit the bill. The refrigerator ice maker was inconveniently out of service, though, and the cut-up apple was in danger of browning. Drat! Fortunately, we keep a collection of pop-culture-themed silicone ice trays filled in case we need a heroic rescue. The sangria ended up being poured over Tony Stark’s helmet and Captain America’s shield.
“Good luck!” I said with far too much evil cheer as I handed the white sangria to my husband, who looked at me with a little trepidation. “What is it?” he asked dubiously, concerned that I'd suddenly started channeling Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones. “It’s sangria!" I said in the most innocent tone I could muster without laughing. No way was I going to tell him he was about to try convenience store sangria. (If you don't like being a guinea pig, don't marry a food writer.)
I took a sip of the red, just to prove it wasn’t poisonous — and instead of wincing or complaining, I found myself happily taking another.
“What do you think?” I asked. “It’s pretty good!” he said. It was surprisingly good, in fact. Straight, it’s a little too sweet, but over crushed ice, it becomes balanced thanks to the water content.
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Is it as good as sangria from scratch? Just because something is homemade doesn’t mean it’s awesome. It’s fair to say Beso Del Sol is better than some sangrias and not as good as others. It has long been established that boxed wine keeps longer and has a lower packaging cost and that the box has no impact on quality — other than perhaps perceived quality, thanks to the old days of boxed wine that was truly horrible.
The white, which my husband liked best, has a base of Spanish wine made from Airén grapes and a lot of fruity appeal thanks to the inclusion of lemon, peach and mango juices.
The red, which I preferred, has more of a backbone thanks to a bit of bracing tannin from the Spanish Tempranillo wine used as a base. It’s rounded out with citrus juices and a touch of cinnamon. Both sangrias are 8.5 percent ABV. That’s lower than in most wines, which average 11.6 percent ABV, according to the Livescience website.
The packs are ideal for places where glass containers are not allowed, like pools, parks and beaches. Convenience store sangria or not, Beso Del Sol was a pleasant summer surprise. For busy people on the run, this particular brand of boxed sangria is actually worth a try.