What is Mulled Wine
With colder weather approaching and the trees starting to shed their leaves, it’s time to enjoy the warmest and coziest of wines, mulled wine, also known as, spiced wine. This seasonal beverage turns wine into comfort and takes barely any effort to make. It is a great way to share something delicious and festive with your friends and family. Kick off the autumn and winter seasons properly with the perfect glass of mulled wine.
What is Mulled Wine?
Mulled wine has many names including, spiced wine, grogg, and vin chaud. These are often all used interchangeably to describe the same hot wine beverage.
Mulled wine is a hot beverage typically made with red wine with various mulling spices, fruit, and fruit juices. Also, sometimes additional brandy. Spiced wine can be customized to your preference and there are so many options to adjust the flavors of this beverage. You get to select your blend of spices, your apple cider, citrus, and even add brandy to it.
Preparing Your Brew
Before you start brewing your mulled wine, you need to ensure your wine is preserved to maintain the freshness and complex flavors. A wine that has been properly stored will maintain its quality, flavors, and aromas. If not properly stored, you may experience a lack of complex notes and aromas of the wine. It may even taste bad because it has gone bad prematurely. We further discuss the factors that ruin wine as it ages here.
While you may not necessarily want to be using the finest vintages for this purpose, you still want to consider proper preservation techniques for wines you’ll be serving. We highly recommend storing your wines at their ideal temperature until you’re ready to drink them. The best way to do so is with a wine refrigerator. Unlike your kitchen refrigerator, a wine refrigerator maintains a consistent and constant temperature and it also maintains the ideal humidity for your wines. Proper humidity control prevents corks from drying out, which allows air to seep in or makes the corks brittle and difficult to open. It also prevents the corks from being too moist, which could cause the cork to deteriorate.
Many people will store their wines in the pantry or at room temperature, this is actually not a bad idea because our homes fluctuate so much in temperature. As the weather cools down, we tend to crank up our heaters, which quickly heats up your home and your wine. This will damage your wines, degrading the flavor. You really don’t want your wine to be heated up before you do it yourself for mulled wine because it could cause your wine to go bad before you’re ready to enjoy it.
The Best Wines for Mulled Wine
Spiced wines are usually made from red wines because these wines tend to be dark, rich, fruity, and full-bodied and they can support the additional flavor you will be adding. Plus, the richer and more flavorful the wine, the less likely it will lose its bold flavors when you heat it up. The best varieties of wines for making mulled wine are Merlot, Zinfandel, or Grenache.
Avoid red wines that are high in tannins or super oaky in flavor, like Cabernet Sauvignon. Also avoid very light red wines, like Pinot Noir, because they don’t offer enough body to carry the spices. You don’t want the flavors of your wine to be drowned out but work together harmoniously with the spices and fruits.
You also don’t need to spend much on a bottle, since you will be cooking it and changing the flavors of the wine by infusing it with spices and fruit. Shop for a bottle for around $10 to $25 with a nice rich flavor that will still make a beautiful base for your beverage. Making mulled wine is a great way to level up an inexpensive bottle of wine that may not have the best flavors by boosting it with flavorful ingredients.
Mulled Wine Ingredients
Before you start infusing your wine, you need to understand each ingredient and how to select them so, you can properly balance all the flavors in your brew. Each addition plays a different role in creating this warm and cozy beverage.
We have already discussed this ingredient in detail but keep in mind this is the base of your beverage so, choosing the right wine is incredibly important. Reading labels or doing a bit of research into wine varieties will help you make the perfect selection.
Add an optional boost of flavor and alcohol to your mulled wine with some brandy. You don’t need much to add some kick and it really enhances all the warming flavors. An affordable brandy will be acceptable since it isn’t the main component of your beverage. You can also always use it for sangria.
Oranges add a fresh and bright component to all the rich flavors of the wine and the spices. You will need oranges for juice and garnish. The oranges make a huge difference in your beverage by balancing the flavors in your wine and enhancing your overall beverage. The orange slices not only make a beautiful garnish but they offer a fresh aroma that offers the full mulled wine experience.
Whole species are key to making a great mulled wine because you want to infuse the flavors of these spices but you don’t want powdered spices floating around in your wine. The powdery consistency is unappealing to drink and powdered spices are much stronger in flavor than using the whole spices. Some whole spices that are popular for mulled wine include cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves, and cardamom. These spices may smell strong but they will release a nice subtle flavor into the wine and won’t overwhelm your wine, just enhance it.
Honey or Maple Syrup
Heating alcohol can bring out its harsh flavors so, adding a little sweetness will help make the beverage much more enjoyable. These natural sweeteners pair perfectly with the fruity notes of the wine, oranges, and apple cider. Additionally, the sweetness helps balance out the bitterness from the spices.
Sliced oranges will add a colorful garnish and delightful aroma to your beverage. You can also add sliced apples or cranberries for a festive touch. Of course, adding the whole spices into each glass will make a great garnish as well. This beverage is so customizable, you can add any of your favorite fall or winter fruits to your mulled wine for a garnish and add a touch of flavor.
Ideal Cooking & Serving Equipment
The last important aspect of making mulled wine is your equipment. It will make the cooking and serving process much easier. There are a variety of ways to infuse your wine and you should choose the option that works best for you. Getting the right tools for the job is essential so, let’s discuss equipment.
Dutch-Oven, Large Stainless Steel Pot, or Slow Cooker
For heating and making your mulled wine, you will need a large heat-safe vessel. Dutch ovens are nice because they retain heat well and are aesthetically appealing for serving. If you use a large stainless steel pot, you will need to keep your batch on the stove on the lowest heat setting to maintain a nice warmth for serving. A slow cooker is also a great heating vessel for both cooking and serving because of the soft gentle heat and the warming setting, which is great for serving because it will always stay warm for your guests.
A ladle is the best serving tool for a hot beverage like this. It also allows your guests to easily get refills as they need. This free-flowing serving method allows you and your guests to enjoy the party. Just be sure to have a place for your ladle to rest when it’s not being used, a dark towel will work and you won’t have to worry about drips or stains.
The ideal serving vessel is a glass mug because it will give you the “wine glass” experience but with the benefit of a nice handle for drinking a hot beverage. However, any set of mugs will do. Choose your favorite festive mug to share a good drink with good people.
How to Make Mulled Wine
Making mulled wine is actually incredibly easy and it requires barely any effort on your part. It’s a great party drink because you can have a large batch warming throughout the night for your guests. No need to refill people’s drinks or brew up anymore. Just make sure you have enough for the number of guests you’re inviting. You can prepare this beverage ahead of time and have it ready for your guests when they start to arrive.
- 2 small oranges or 1 large
- 1 bottle of affordable Merlot, Zinfandel or Garnacha (also called Grenache)
- ¼ cup brandy
- 1 to 2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey, to taste
- 2 whole cinnamon sticks
- 3 star anise
- 4 whole cloves
- Optional garnishes: Fresh whole cranberries (about ¼ cup), cinnamon sticks, additional orange rounds or half-moons
- Two small or one large orange - If using 2 small, slice one orange into rounds and juice the other. If using 1 large orange, slice one half into slices and juice the other half. Place all into your pot or slow cooker.
- Pour one bottle of wine into the large pot or slow cooker. Add brandy, 1 tablespoon of the sweetener for now, the cinnamon sticks, star anise, and cloves.
- Warm the mixture over medium heat until steaming (about 5 minutes), and keep an eye on it. When you start seeing the tiniest of bubbles at the surface, reduce the heat to the lowest of low. Or cook for 30 minutes to an hour in a slow cooker on low.
- Taste and add another tablespoon of sweetener if it’s not sweet enough for your liking. If it’s lacking the spice you’d like, continue cooking over very low heat for 5 to 10 more minutes.
- Serve in mugs with your desired garnishes.
*If you expect to finish the mulled wine within 20 minutes, you can keep it on the stove over extra-low heat (it will become more spice-infused with time). Otherwise, remove it from the heat, cover, and rewarm over low heat if necessary. Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days, covered (pour it through a strainer if you don’t want it to become any more spice-infused than it already is).
A Warm and Cozy Cheers
Whether you’re toasting with friends and family or need help prepping for your holiday party, Allavino has you covered. Read about pairing wines with foods in our article here and learn about pairing wines with chocolate in our article here. The holidays aren’t the same without a little wine, let our team of experts help you answer questions, provide advice, and help you find the perfect wine storage solutions or gifts. Give them a call at 800-710-9939.