A few years ago I had the dubious pleasure of taking part in a mulled wine taste test for a well-known German newspaper. We visited several Christmas markets and tasted our way through the mulled wines on offer, and the result was sobering: most vendors used mass-produced, pre-prepared mulled wine blends! Most of the time it was obvious that these were made from the most basic of wines, ones unsuitable as table wines because of their conspicuous defects of taste! So, why not make your mulled wine yourself? At least you’d know what’s in it!
What kind of wine should you use?
Perhaps it goes without saying that using high-quality red wine for mulling is a waste, and it’s not at all necessary. Instead, use a clean, freshly produced table wine – one that you could enjoy drinking with meals on a day-to-day basis. It’s important that the wine has a juicy, prominent fruitiness and that it doesn’t have a strong tannin presence (with lots of powerful tannic acids) or a highly oaky aroma, as both become unpleasant influences on heating. Young, fruity German red wines from grape varieties such as Dornfelder or Zweigelt are ideal, as are Italian reds, Southern French or New World Merlot and Shiraz.
Essential spices for perfect mulled wine!
When it comes to spices, try to avoid pre-prepared mulled wine spice mixes and instead create your own. This way, not only can you add the traditional cinnamon, cloves, allspice, cardamom, star anise and (untreated and well-washed) orange peel, but you can also experiment with your own ideas. For example, adding a little ginger brings a whole new dimension to the flavour. To sweeten mulled wine I always use a little Demerara sugar, which I find works far better than white sugar. And, unlike the variety often encountered at Christmas markets, a good mulled wine shouldn’t be kept hot for too long. Once heated and filtered, it quickly loses its fire, its fruitiness and its tastiness.
Making your own mulled wine couldn’t be easier!
Now that you know what to look for when choosing a wine, and what ingredients are needed to prepare mulled wine, the kitchen team at the Interalpen Hotel has created a delicious recipe for you to try at home.
For our mulled wine you will need the following:
1.5l red wine
1 vanilla pod (halved lengthways)
1 cinnamon stick
5 whole cloves
5 star anise
5 cardamom seeds
5 allspice berries
1 small piece of ginger
80g brown sugar
Combine all of the ingredients and bring to the boil. Immediately remove from the heat and leave to steep for about 30 minutes. For an alcohol-free version, simply replace the wine and rum with orange or apple juice so that children and drivers can enjoy a delicious, warming drink too!