How to Make Mulled Wine at Home

Vintage Roots

Mulled wine is a drink made using red wine, spices, and fruits. It can be drunk hot or cold, and can even be made without alcohol (you can find an easy recipe for mulled wine below). For those who want the perfect wintery or Christmas drink, there’s no drink that matches up to the delicious spiced wine.

When it comes to spending the chilly winter evenings at home, nothing is better to keep you warm and toasty than a mug of mulled wine. Something about the spicy, rich drink makes it absolutely wonderful, and it’s also a drink that fills the home with the beautiful scents many of us associate with Christmas time.

What is Mulled Wine?

Mulled wine is an alcoholic drink almost always made with red wine, though cider and non-alcoholic versions exist. Mulled wine is usually made with either a fruity red wine or port, as these give the mulled wine a sweeter, more enjoyable flavour.

To make mulled wine, the wine is poured into a pot (or a slow cooker), where it is heated and has spices and fruits added. Many people wonder, “What is in mulled wine?” You’ll find that the average mug of mulled wine has:

  • Oranges
  • Plums

There are also a number of spices for mulled wine

  • Cinnamon (a must)
  • Cloves
  • Orange peel/zest
  • Anis
  • Bay leaf

There are many more mulled wine spices that you can use, but these are the more “traditional” spices for mulled wine. If you want to know how to make mulled wine with mulling spices, you’ll be best off adding these to your wine.

How to Make Mulled Wine: The History of Mulled Wine

Before we get into how to make mulled wine, let’s look into the history of it.

Wine has been around for thousands of years – with the oldest winery (yet found) discovered in Armenia, dating back to 4100 BC. But what we know as mulled wine today dates back at least to the Roman Era, roughly the 2nd Century AD. This is the first recorded example of wine that had been heated and spiced. However, Homer’s Odyssey mentions a blend of wine and spices that are similar to mulled wine.

The Romans brought wine with them all around the continent, which is why France, Spain, England, Germany, and many other European countries currently produce wines. Thanks to the Romans, spiced wines are popular around the world today.

Germany is a country famous for its Glühwein, which roughly translates “glow wine”, and a warm mug of Glühwein is a popular seasonal drink at German Christmas markets. This drink dates back to the 1400s, proving that the drink had become popular by the Middle Ages.

How to Make Mulled Wine at Home: The Best Wine for Mulled Wine

One common question about  mulled wine is, “What’s the best wine for mulled wine?” The good news is that there’s no need to spend a lot of money – cheaper wine is often the best option.

When you heat the wine, some of the flavour compounds are destroyed (which is why it’s recommended that wine is stored out of heat and direct sunlight). The mulling spices used are also very strong, so they can drown out the subtler flavours of the wine.

This is why it’s always best to find a cheaper wine. You want a wine that’s simple yet with flavours that will complement the mulled wine spices, which doesn’t have to be too pricey. You also want something that is smooth, without too many tannins. (Remember: tannins turn bitter during the heating process.)

Here are a few excellent organic wines to use for mulled wine:

  • Adobe Syrah Reserva This Chilean wine has a spicy, smoky flavour, with hints of blackcurrant. The mouthfeel is soft and voluptuous, without strong tannins. It’s a wine you’ll definitely want to try for your spiced wine.

  • Bodegas Piqueras Garnacha Tintorera Made from the rare Garnacha Tintorera grape, this wine has ripe red cherries, raspberries, crushed boysenberries, red plums and a touch of vanilla spice on the nose. Well-integrated fine juicy tannins, ideal for making mulled wine.

  • Organic Roots Rouge This much-loved, fruit-forward organic red is full of soft, bright fruits. It’s easy drinking and simple in style with aromas of juicy black raspberry and cherry, the perfect base for a mulled wine.

  • Pays D’Oc Montmija Merlot – A wine with rich plum and figgy fruit flavour. Smooth and soft with nice concentration, this is an anytime Merlot to revel in, and would also be a great choice for mulled wine.

  • Viña Ijalba Rioja Tempranillo – There’s something wonderfully earthy about this Rioja, produced by the organic estate of Viña Ijalba. Made from Tempranillo grapes, it has strong flavours of raspberry jam, and it’s as smooth as velvet. Definitely a wine to use for your mulled wines.

  • Toscar Tinto Bag-In-Box (3 Litres)  – If you need to make a big batch of mulled wine for a party or entertaining, this is the perfect choice. This Tempranillo comes from La Mancha, and you’ll find it’s a wine perfect for easy drinking. The flavours are somewhere between dark cherries and soft strawberries, meaning it will blend perfectly with the spices you use for your mulled wine. We also have a no Sulphur Added Tempranillo by the bottle too.

These are some of the best organic wines for making mulled wine, but they are far from the only ones. If you have a red wine that you really like, you could try using it to make mulled wine, or you can get creative and look for different types of mulled wine recipes. Or why not try adding the same spices to organic cider for a deliciously different mulled cider – mulled cider is a deliciously warming drink too.

One of the best things about mulled wine is that it’s an excellent way to use up opened bottles of wine. A bottle of red will usually only last for 3 to 7 days, even if the bottle is properly corked or stoppered (find out more about how long wine lasts here).

When you make mulled wine, the spices soften the acidity of the wine, and the result is a smooth, well-flavoured drink. You can use old wine to make this drink, and it will save you having to pop the cork on a new bottle.

Tips on Making Mulled Wine

If you’re going to make your own mulled wine, here are a few tips to help you do it right:

Mix and match

Who says that mulled wine needs to be made ONLY with wine? You can add a wide range of spirits and liqueurs to give your spiced wine better flavours. For example, if you’re adding oranges into your mulled wine, why not mix in some of Walcher Arancello Blood Orange Liqueur or some Glux Gin Punch?

Get creative with the spices

The spices traditionally used to make mulled wine are cloves, nutmeg, star anise, and cinnamon, but they aren’t your only option. Why not try adding ginger, vanilla pods, bay leaves, allspice, cardamom, or any other spice you want?

You’ll find that these spices can provide a unique variation to the classic recipe, giving you a new take on a classic.

Add sugar

Adding sugar into your mulled wine helps to reduce the heaviness of the alcohol, and it counteracts the strong spices. Stir the sugar into the wine early on in the process, as that will help it to dissolve into the wine, infusing it with sweetness and life.

Honey and liqueurs (like those two mentioned above) can also be used in place of sugar, and it will add a whole new dimension to your wine’s flavours.

Follow the instructions carefully

If you don’t, you may end up with something that looks and smells like mulled wine, but which tastes funky. Place the pot on the stove to heat for 10 to 15 minutes, keeping the heat nice and low. Don’t let the wine boil, as that will affect the flavours negatively.

Once the mixture is heated (just before boiling), remove it from the stove and let it sit for half an hour. This will infuse the drink with flavour, making the mulled wine come alive. After the wine has sat, reheat it and enjoy.

Try white wine

Instead of making mulled wine with only red wine, why not try making your own using white wine? The lighter, brighter flavours of white wine pair beautifully with lemon, rosemary, thyme, vanilla, and lighter spices.

You can even make it with cider, as well as apple and pear juice for alcohol-free versions of mulled wine.

Check out our tips on How to Make the Perfect Mulled Cider here.

How to avoid grainy or gritty wine

Many recipes call for you to use ground spices when making mulled wine, but adding the powdered spices can lead to grainy or gritty wine. Instead, why not toast the spices whole (cinnamon sticks, cloves, anise, etc.) and add them into the mulled wine without grinding them? You will be able to strain them out easily, leaving you with a smooth wine free of grit and grain.

As a bonus, toasting the spices without grinding them will bring out the essential oils, giving them more, subtler flavours and complexity.

Your Easy Mulled Wine Recipe

Want to know how to make mulled wine in a few minutes? Here is a simple recipe to try that will produce a batch of delicious traditional mulled wine:

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle of red wine
  • 1 orange
  • ½ cup sugar (=100 grams)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 2 star anise

*note: you can use ground spices, but best to keep them in a muslin sachet to avoid having a gritty mulled wine.

Preparation:

  1. To begin, open the bottle of wine and pour it into a pot. Place the pot on medium heat and let it begin to heat.
  2. Add in the sugar once you see the heat rising from the wine, and stir well to let it absorb into the wine. Grate a bit of the zest from the orange, and add it into the mixture. Slice the orange into thin pieces (like you would see for a garnish), and add them into the pot along with the cinnamon, cloves and star anise.
  3. Let the mixture heat for 10 to 15 minutes, but don’t let it boil. Let the wine sit for half an hour, covered with a lid to keep the heat trapped inside. Once 30 minutes have passed, return the wine to the stove and re-heat. When it reaches your preferred temperature, serve and enjoy!
  4. This recipe is brilliantly simple and easy to follow, but the mulled wine it produces will be delicious. In just 45 minutes, you have four to six mugs of spiced wine to enjoy.

How to Make Mulled Wine in a Slow Cooker

Instead of making your mulled wine on the stove, why not try making it in the slow cooker?

A slow cooker won’t boil the wine, but will slowly heat it. During the heating process, the wine is absorbing the flavours of the sugar, the oranges, and all the spices. By the time you’re ready to drink the wine, it has more flavour than you get from mulled wine made on the stove. The only downside is the cooking time: up to 2 hours.

Here is a simple slow cooker mulled wine recipe to follow:

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle of red wine
  • ¼ cup of brandy
  • ½ cup of water
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 2-3 cinnamon sticks
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 8 Clementines

Note: you can also add spices like allspice or cardamom. Like above, you can use ground spices, but best to keep them in a muslin sachet to avoid having a gritty mulled wine.

Preparation:

  1. Mix the wine, water, brandy, and sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add in the cinnamon sticks, cloves and star anise. Cut the clementines into small pieces and add.
  2. Turn the slow cooker onto medium heat, and cover. Let the cooker do its thing, bringing the wine to a gentle simmer. Turn the dial down to low heat, and keep it cooking for a few more minutes. Once you see it beginning to simmer, turn it to the “Keep Warm” setting. You’ll need to let it sit for about half an hour before you serve.

Mulled wine is an amazing drink, one that is perfect for Christmas, or any time in winter. Thankfully, it’s beautifully easy to make, and a brilliant addition to your seasonal menu!

Check our Guide on Drinking and Serving Mulled Wine here

Or our Easy Recipe for Mulled Cider.

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