2 November 2020 from Nikki in Recipes

Just to really get you in the mood for this year’s ski holiday, I thought I’d tempt you into making your own mulled wine (or “vin chaud” if you’re off to the French Alps this winter). Although you can buy some very good mulled wine sachets in M&S or Holland & Barrett, there’s nothing better than the real thing, lovingly prepared, using freshly ground spices. Mulled wine was first concocted and enjoyed back in Roman times and the basic recipe has stayed pretty much the same since then. Wine (red or white), spices and honey or sugar are the main ingredients involved in making this spirit-lifting drink that you either love or hate!

The history of mulled wine

So where did it all start? Mulling wine is actually an ancient ritual and was used for medicinal purposes as far back as 3150BC in Egypt. Wines were infused with medicinal herbs and resins to treat common ailments. It is also clear that spices were often used in ancient times to preserve wine, or more likely, to mask the sour flavour of wine that had gone off! We know that this drink was very popular in the 12th century in Montpellier in the South of France, a trading town where spices were readily available. These spicy wines, which were then called "garhiofilatum" (a term chosen to describe the cloves often used in the recipe) were enjoyed by traders passing through the town. When fatal diseases like cholera were strife back in the 18th century, wine was generally safer to drink than water, and it was mixed with honey and spices to make it more palatable. Back in these times, wine was mixed with various spices such as pepper, mastic, laurel and saffron and probably just about any spice that was available. It seems that today, hot spiced wine is very popular all over Europe, in particular in Eastern Europe (where temperatures are generally much lower), with many countries having their own variation of the drink: Nordic Glögg, Czech Svarák, German Feuerzangenbowle, Russian Glintwein; and Polish Grzane, to name just a few…

mulled wine

A ski holiday without mulled wine…

Is, for me, like a ski holiday without snow – well that may be a light exaggeration! However, drinking mulled wine in a cozy mountain bar up on the slopes while heavy snow falls outside or in a lively local café in your ski resort after a day of skiing or snowboarding has to be pretty high on the list of my favourite things about a ski holiday. Glühwein has always been part of a ski holiday in Austria or Germany but it is only in recent years that vin chaud has become a popular drink in French ski resorts. This increase in popularity is partly thanks to an event held a few years back when Grand Marnier and Vignerons du Ventoux in the south of France organised the making of the "largest vin chaud in the world" (1155 liters!)

Our recipe for mulled wine

Like many traditional recipes, there are so many variations, that you can always find the perfect one to suit your own tastes – or you simply adapt one to your own tastes. It’s possible to add almost any spices and some people like to add fruit such as oranges, lemons, raisins. Surprisingly, mulled wine can also be made with white wine if you’re not a red wine drinker. There are so many recipes but I know Jamie Oliver’s mulled wine is particularly popular. He uses the technique of brewing spices into a richly flavoured syrup before adding the wine, which I have to admit, makes this drink even more exceptional. Here’s the recipe that works for us:

  • For 4-8 people (depending on how thirsty they are!)
  • A litre of red wine
  • ½ litre of water (or apple cider)
  • Plenty of sugar or honey to taste
  • 15 g cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp crushed Cardamom
  • 1 tbsp crushed Cinnamon sticks
  • ½ tsp Cloves
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 3 star anise pods
  • 1 orange sliced
  • ½ lemon sliced

Instructions

  • First, put the water (or cider) with all the spices and sugar (or honey) in a saucepan.
  • Bring to the boil and then simmer for 40 minutes until you are left with a rich syrup.
  • Add the wine and heat over a medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes WITHOUT boiling – very important or you will boil off the alcohol!
  • Leave to rest for 10 minutes – if you can resist the temptation to tuck in straight away…

Enjoy your mulled wine in good humour, in good company and, of course, in moderation! 

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Being lucky enough to have parents who were crazy about skiing, my love for the mountains started when I was 4 years old on our first family ski holiday to Austrian ski resort of Obergurl. One ski holiday a year was never enough and tears rolled down my face as I looked out the back window of the car on the drive down the valley on the way home!