In Ireland, the winter chills your bones. Frigid rain soaks through socks and sneaks up the leg of every pair of trousers. To deal with this misery, we have a passion for hot beverages, of which, one at this time of year is mulled wine.
Mulled Wine, for those not in the Know, is spiced and served hot, often complemented by mixed-in juices or brandy. It’s guaranteed to warm you from the inside out. If where you live gets even colder, you’ll love the Mulled Wine tradition in your home.
Did you know that mulled wine is not considered a high-class beverage? In England, during the Victorian era, spicing wine improved the flavor of poorly stored wines shipped from France. Europe’s fascination with Oriental spices introduced cloves, cinnamon and cardamon! However, today, there is no class distinction apart from the much posed question - what type of wine should be used?
Since mulling wine disguises a lot of the nuances of taste, don’t pick a delicate flavored wine such as pinot noir or gamay. Instead, go for bigger, bolder, full-bodied red wines such as Syrah and Malbec. Keep in mind a red blend will often be a cheaper than a single varietal wine. Some variations of mulled wine, use white wine, for these, an aromatic white wine such as Riesling, Muscat (moscato) and Chenin Blanc are great choices.
So what’s next?
Jamie Oliver’s is a simple favourite recipe of HDW
200 g caster sugar
6 whole cloves
1 stick cinnamon
3 fresh bay leaves
1 whole nutmeg, for grating
1 vanilla pod, halved lengthways
2 star anise
2 bottles Chianti or other Italian red wine
This is dead simple to make and tastes like Christmas in a glass. It's a lovely celebration of those traditional festive spices like cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. If you've got your own favourite spices, then feel free to add those to the pot too. Let everything cook away and warm up gently so the flavours have time to mingle with the wine. I like to leave my mulled wine ticking over on a really low heat and just ladle some into glasses as and when guests pop in.
Peel large sections of peel from your clementines, lemon and lime using a speed peeler. Put the sugar in a large saucepan over a medium heat, add the pieces of peel and squeeze in the clementine juice. Add the cloves, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and about 10 to 12 gratings of nutmeg. Throw in your halved vanilla pod and stir in just enough red wine to cover the sugar.
Let this simmer until the sugar has completely dissolved into the red wine and then bring to the boil. Keep on a rolling boil for about 4 to 5 minutes, or until you've got a beautiful thick syrup. The reason I'm doing this first is to create a wonderful flavour base by really getting the sugar and spices to infuse and blend well with the wine. It's important to do make a syrup base first because it needs to be quite hot, and if you do this with both bottles of wine in there you'll burn off the alcohol.
When your syrup is ready, turn the heat down to low and add your star anise and the rest of the wine. Gently heat the wine and after around 5 minutes, when it's warm and delicious, ladle it into glasses and serve.