We have borrowed this tradition from continental Europe, where there are a range of popular solutions to the problem of having an excess of cheap wine (bet you wish that was a problem here, eh?).
Sadly, there are a few problems that prevent mulled wine from being quite the same cheery winter treat in Scotland, with the main one being that wine isn’t so ‘cheerily-cheap’ here. This is really evident when you buy mulled wine at a covered ‘German’ market, because it is likely to be £3.50 or more for a measly wee cup.
The other one is that a lot of shops present us with the easy option of affordable pre-mulled bottles of wine, but these simply aren’t very good. They are ‘wine-based’ products, full of God-knows-what. Avoid!
Equally, most supermarkets and wine shops will be stocking up on pre-mixed mulled wine sachets – kind of like little teabags for mulled wine. These are fine, but I often find these sachets a little too perfumed, giving the mulled wine a slight hint of pot pourri on the nose. They
always sell out, so buy now if this is your chosen route to mulling.
However, I would argue that if you want to do it right, you want to do it yourself. Some people are a bit reluctant to do this because they are worried they don’t know the ‘right’ way. I have prepared a recipe that I follow below, but the answer is that there isn’t a right way. While there are a few pointers on contents and process you need to think about, experimentation is the way forward.
Firstly, the wine. I’ll be blunt; even if you buy the cheapest wine you can, you will probably still end up with a pleasant mulled wine, given the amount of sugar and spices you put in there. I made the recipe below with Lidl Côtes du Rhône 2011 (£3.59, Lidl) and it worked fine. To push the boundaries of taste, I followed up with a batch made using Tesco Everyday Value Spanish Red Wine (£3.99, and it comes in a 1 litre carton)! The mulled wine came out a bit thin, but still perfectly pleasant.
In choosing the wine, I would advise Southern French or Spanish wines with a middling body. If you want it lighter, you could throw in something a bit more delicate like Beaujolais (handy if you went wild and bought a case of Beaujolais Nouveau when it was released earlier this month, only to find out you didn’t like it!) or Chianti. If like me, you like mulled wine a little more rich and bodied, areas around Lisbon in Portugal are the place to go for rich, bodied reds that are cheap enough to mull. A personal favourite is Quinta de Bons Ventos 2010 (£6.50, Oddbins).
Next up: spice and flavourings. This is up to you. Traditionally, you can mull with a whole load of ingredients; you will hear recipes listing cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, cloves, vanilla, star anise, lemons, limes, oranges and even bay leaves and cayenne pepper! Just choose a few of these that you like and experiment as you mull!
Lastly, we come to sweeteners and sharpeners. The best mulled wines are both sickly sweet, and quite strong! I prefer brown sugars and honey to refined white sugars, as they give a richer, deeper and warmer sweetness.
To add a wee ‘nip’, you will want to add a dash of spirit at the end of the cook. This is up to you again, but most popular are brandy, rum and gin. I have heard of vodka and whisky being used, but these are flavours that may contrast and overpower slightly. Again, it’s all about preference!
Mulled Wine Recipe
1 clementine (un-waxed)
1 cinnamon stick
750ml of red wine
2 teaspoons of honey
2 heaped teaspoons of dark brown sugar
4 heaped teaspoons of light brown sugar
1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon of ground allspice
2 teaspoons of ground ginger
75ml of gin
A muslin cloth
1 Use a sharp knife to rough the surface of the un-waxed clementine. Skewer a small hole right through the middle of the clementine, and put one cinnamon stick through it. Then, force ten whole cloves into the skin of the clementine.
2 Place the red wine, spiced clementine (see step 1), honey, dark brown sugar, light brown sugar, ground nutmeg, ground allspice and ground ginger (or a choped inch of crystallised ginger, if available) in a medium pot on a very gentle heat.
3 Stir continually, bringing the mixture to a high temperature, just beneath boiling (don’t let it boil!), then reduce the heat and cover
4 Leave for fifteen minutes to stew
5 Take off the heat and stir in the gin
6 Remove the clementine, and slowly filter the mixture through a muslin cloth into a pre-warmed serving jug (or a Thermos-type flask, if you want to keep it hot for later).
7 Remember that the wine doesn’t like being left uncovered for long, or being continually cooled and reheated – all the alcohol will evaporate, ruining the flavour.
8 Serve and enjoy!
This recipe is for one 750ml bottle of wine.
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