Traditionally mulled wine is a warm drink that only seems to appear around Christmas time, but why is this so? We all associate drinking mulled wine in cold weather and during holiday time, this obviously gives us the feel-good factor for the beverage. Therefore, if we feel so good whilst drinking mulled wine, why don’t we drink it anytime during the year especially during the cold, dull winter months when we really need cheering up?
Mulling a wine (or any beverage for that fact) is simply infusing it with herbs and spices and then heating it up to release these wonderful aromas. In days gone by when a wine had lost it’s freshness and started to oxidise, mulling it was a good way of rejuvenation and making it palatable again. By adding spices and a little honey this ‘old’ wine was given a new lease of life, and what’s more tasted really good.
However, nowadays where red wine is more plentiful, we do not have to wait for the wine to deteriorate before embarking on a mull. One of the secrets to the successful making of a mulled wine is to ensure that the main ingredients have plenty of time to infuse with the wine. In the German glühwein these are cinnamon sticks, vanilla pods, cloves, citrus and sugar, while in the Scandinavian version they add almonds and raisins as well. Another important factor is to ensure that the wine does not come to the boil when heated otherwise alcohol will be lost and a ‘cooked’ flavour can arise. Remember alcohol has a lower boiling point than wine.
Mulled Wine recipe
1 bottle red wine
60g/2oz demerara sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 orange, halved
1 dried bay leaf
- Into a saucepan put the wine in with the orange, sugar, bayleaf and spices.
- Optional: Marinate for a few hours – if so place ingredients into a muslin bag to avoid their disintegration bits spoiling the wine.
- Heat it gently until the sugar has dissolved. Continue to taste to see if you need extra sweetness in the wine, and add more sugar accordingly.
- If you have a thermometer keep the temperature at around 60°C or 140°F. N.B. Do not allow to boil.
- Strain the mixture into heatproof glasses and serve immediately.
Mulled wine appears under other names depending on where it comes from:
Glühwein in Germany -“glowing wine”,
vin chaud in France – “hot wine”,
Glögg in Scandinavia – “heated”,
vin brulé in Italy – french for “burnt wine”.
In several other countries around the world the name for mulled wine is based on their translation of ‘big hot’, ‘boiled wine’, ‘cooked wine’, ‘heated wine’ or simply ‘heating’, ‘heated’ or ‘cooked’.
There is nothing nicer than enjoying, with your friends, the warming glow and flavoursome subtleties of a well made mulled wine. Wherever in the world it comes from it is still ‘hot wine’, the only differences are the ingredients and the company!