Whether served at Christmas markets or prepared at home, there’s something about hot mulled wine that is inherently festive. This traditional winter drink has become quite popular during the holiday season around the world. It has been served for centuries in different parts of the Old World of wines during winter months and is now having its moment in the modern world.
What is mulled wine?
Mulled wine, also known as spiced wine, is wine (usually red) infused and steeped with spices and fruits and served warm. It is known by various names depending on where it comes from. In Italy, it is called vin brulé; in France, it is vin chaud; in Greece, it is krasomelo; in Romania, it is izvar; in Sweden, it is simply glogg; while in Germany, it is glühwein.
Since German Christmas markets are widely popular, glühwein is a term we are familiar with and associate with mulled wine. According to Google Trends analysis, the term “Glühwein” gets searched online twice as often today as ten years ago.
How does mulled wine taste?
Mulled wine can taste a bit like regular red wine, which is the main ingredient in the concoction. But the wine’s overall flavour will be transformed by the heating and mulling with spices and fruits. Only the broad flavour of the red wine remains, to which the other ingredients contribute additional flavours.
Mulled wine can taste sweet, smoky, fruity, tart, or a combination of these. It tastes sweet due to the sweetener added to it. It tastes fruity on account of the oranges or seasonal fruits used in its preparation. But it is mainly the whole spices that give the drink the robust and festive flavour typical of mulled wine.
What’s mulled wine made of?
The ancient Romans used to partially flavour their wine with honey and spices. By Apicius (30 BC), spiced wine was very much a thing and a recipe mentioned in the book, similar to today’s mulled wine, lists ingredients like cinnamon, star anise, bay leaf, herbs like coriander and thyme, and rather large quantity of honey.
The basic ingredients in mulled wine and its variations today are the same:
Wine – Traditional mulled wine is made of red wine, but the popularity of white and rosé mulled wine is increasing. When picking a red wine, go for a dark and fruity full-bodied wine like a Merlot or Zinfandel or Sangiovese or Grenache. Be sure not to mix varietals and avoid splurging on an expensive bottle since the wine’s nuanced and complex flavours will be lost during the heating.
Whole spices – Cloves, cinnamon, star anise, peppercorns, cardamom pods, and bay leaves are the most widely used ingredients. Some people also add ginger, nutmeg, or vanilla.
Sweetener – This can be any kind of sugar, sugar syrup, or even a natural sweetener like honey or apple cider.
Fruit – The recipe calls for citrus fruits like oranges, tangerines, or clementines. Seasonal fruits like apples and pears can also be used. Some people also add lemons or limes to the mix.
Other liquors – A splash of brandy or port or less commonly, bourbon, is often added to the concoction.
How do you serve mulled wine?
Mulled wine is served warm. It should be brought to a simmering point over medium heat without boiling and kept at a low temperature until it is served. The spices should be strained before serving. The wine can be garnished with cinnamon sticks, orange slices or peels, or cherries.
Serving the wine warm distinguishes it from regular wine. The temperature has a livening effect on the smoky flavours of mulled wine and complements the cold winter weather.
There are special wine glasses with handles and wide brims for serving mulled wine. But the drink can be served in normal ceramic or porcelain mugs as well. Glass mugs are another good option if your hands are protected from the heat.
Mulled wine is a warming drink that can be enjoyed on its own without a snack or a meal, but it is equally enjoyable when served with a few chosen food pairs like roasted nuts, creamy and salty cheeses (think Roquefort, Camembert, or Wensleydale!), cheese fondue, or decadent desserts like dark chocolate cake.
You can purchase premade spiced wine or mulled wine spice mixes at many well-stocked liquor stores or grocery chains or even online. However, it is quite easy to make your own mulled wine at home. You can even adjust the ingredients to your liking.
Here’s our favourite recipe to make the perfect mulled wine.
We wish all our readers and customers a healthy and happy holiday season from the Ideal Wine Company!