September 08, 2021
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 or Spiced Wine?
Mulled wine goes by many names. Dispensing where you are in the world, you may hear, 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 usually made with red wine along with various mulling spices and sometimes raisins. Spiced wine can be customized to your taste and there are so many options to play with this beverage. You can select your blend of spices, you can apple cider or citrus, and even add brandy to it.
Before You Pour
Before you start brewing your beverage, you need to ensure your wine is preserved to maintain its optimal freshness and flavors. A wine that has been properly stored will maintain its quality, flavors, and aromas. If not properly stored, you may experience a break down of the complex notes or the wine may even taste bad. We 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 the appropriate temperature until you're ready to drink them. The best way to do so is with a wine refrigerator. Unlike a standard refrigerator, a wine refrigerator maintains a consistent and constant temperature but it also maintains the ideal humidity for your wines. This 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 to moist, which could cause the cork to rot.
While many people store their wines in the pantry or at room temperature, this is actually not ideal because our homes fluctuate so much in temperature. Especially, as the weather cools down, we tend to turn on our heaters, which quickly heats up your home and your wine. 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.
Which Wines Are Best for Mulled Wine?
Mulled wines are typically made from red wines. The ideal wines tend to be dark, rich, fruity, and full-bodied because they can support and complement the additional flavor you will be adding. Additionally, 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 also don't need to spend much on a bottle, since you will be altering the flavors of the wine by infusing it with spices and fruit. Look for a bottle around $10 to $25 for a nice rich flavor that won't break the bank but will still make a beautiful base for your beverage. However, making mulled wine is a great way to level up an inexpensive bottle wine that may not have the best flavors.
Mulled Wine Ingredients
Before you start infusing your wine, you need to understand the ingredients 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.
This is an optional boost of flavor and alcohol to add a little extra kick to your mulled wine. You actually don't need much and it's really used to enhance all the warming flavors. An affordable brandy will be fine since you aren't using it as the main component of your beverage. This is also a great component in sangria.
This adds a fresh and bright component to all the rich flavors of the wine and the spices. You will need oranges for both juices and as a garnish component. The oranges make a huge difference in your beverage because it balances out the flavors in your wine and enhances your overall beverage. The orange slices not only make a beautiful garnish but they offer a fresh aroma that gives you 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. That powdery texture is unappealing and powered spices are much stronger in flavor than using the whole spices. Some whole spices that are popular for mulled wine are cinnamon sticks, whole star anise, whole cloves, and whole 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 mellow out those harsh flavors and make the beverage much more enjoyable. These natural sweeteners pair so beautifully with the fruity notes of the wine and oranges. Plus, the sweetness helps balance out the bitterness from the spices.
Sliced orange will add some color and aroma to your beverage but 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. You can add any of your favorite fall or winter fruits to your mulled wine for a garnish and add a touch of flavor.
Suggested Cooking & Serving Equipment
The last important aspect of making mulled wine is your equipment. This will not only make the cooking process easier but it will make your serving process easier. Getting the right tools for the job is essential.
Dutch-Oven, Large Stainless Steel Pot, or Slow Cooker
For heating and making your mulled wine, you will need a large vessel for heating everything. Dutch ovens are nice because they retain heat well and are aesthetically appealing for serving. With a large stainless steel pot, you may need to keep it on the stove on the lowest heat setting to maintain a nice warmth for serving. A slow cooker is great for both cooking and serving because of the soft gentle heat and its 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. Just be sure to have a place for your ladle to rest when it's not being used, a dark towel will work in a pinch.
The ideal serving vessel is a glass mug because it will give you the "wine glass" experience but with a nice handle for drinking a hot beverage. However, any set of mugs will do.
How to Make Mulled Wine
Making mulled wine is actually incredibly easy and it requires minimal effort on your part. It's a great party beverage because you can have a large batch warming throughout the night for your guests. 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
- 1. 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.
- 2. 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.
- 3. 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.
- 4. 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.
- 5. 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).
Celebrate Fall and Winter Properly
Whether you're toasting with friends and family or need a gift for the holiday season, Beverage Factory has all your wine and celebratory equipment and gifts! Learn about some uncommon facts about wine here and about how to start a wine collection here. Our team of experts are always here to offer advice, answer questions, and help you find the perfect beverage solutions or gifts. Give them a call at 800-710-9939.