JWL Issue #032: A primer on mulled wine

December 11, 2018

I did a lot more podcast editing this last week and the end is finally in sight (for production at least). I appreciate I’ve been saying this for a while, but I’ve got just a few more hours left and it’ll be hitting your airwaves. As a newsletter subscriber you will be the first to know when it lands.

You know it’s Christmas when… no, not the Coca-Cola advert, but mulled wine appears everywhere. You can read a bit more about it in this week’s Learn.

I’m also working my way through the Virgin Wines Advent Calendar, which I got given as a gift this year - and what a gift indeed! I’ll do a bit of a roundup of my favourites in the new year for that I think.


At a friend’s 30th this weekend, I drank a Chateau Segries Lirac from 2012. A tasting note I saw from 2014 said that it was too dry and tannic, which definitely isn’t true today. This is really coming into its own with velvety blueberry, violets, white pepper and vanilla. A great example of finding a wine that wouldn’t break the bank but getting to drink it at its peak. 

Big and bold wine fans, head over to Waitrose to buy the Frei Brothers Sonoma Cabernet (£17.99). This is really nicely complex: blueberries, blackcurrants, a dark floral back note, lingering vanilla, black pepper and charred wood.

Lidl has a Clare Valley riesling at just £6.99 that’s fantastic value. As with all great Lidl bargains, the balance is spot on here. Citrus shines wonderfully throughout this wine. It’s got great acidity but doesn’t need food: drink it as you please.


Mulled wine

The history of mulled wine is a conflicting one. The more cynical might tell you that winemakers in the Middle Ages mulled their wines to cover up poor quality. While there are other reports that it was the supposed health benefits of the spices that drove its creation.

Variations exist around Europe, with German glühwein popular amongst skiers. Yet it was Sweden that kept the love of the drink going and specifically introduced the association with Christmas.

What wine to use? For a red: go hot climate, with some big fruity flavours. Don’t worry about tannins or residual sugar here, nor look for subtle flavours. That’ll be lost once you’ve heated it. For reds: something floral should work quite well.

The key thing is not to boil the wine else you’ll lose the alcohol. Keep it on really low and heat it slow. Leave it for 30 minutes to infuse off the heat and bingo, you’re ready to go. There’s plenty of variations around but use what you have to hand, and a slight fortifier of brandy will pair up perfectly.

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