Temperature's dropping and you're lighting the first fire of the year in the fireplace? Cozy weather is mulled wine weather. The warming aromas and heady body of mulled wine ties a winter evening together like that new wool throw on your sofa. So you've got spices in order, now you need to choose the best wine for mulled wine. Here's what to look for.
Best Types of Wine for Mulled Wine
First of all, this wine is getting all jazzed up with a bouquet of aromatics, which means that you don't want to crack open some special, expensive bottle to glug into the pot on the stove. Too many other things are going on in mulled wine, and you won't be able to experience the wine as intended. That being said, you will be drinking the stuff so you don't want to use trash wine either. Look for something middle of the road - affordable, yet good.
When it comes to choosing a grape, a few take to that star anise, orange, and cinnamon stick really nicely. You want to look for robust reds that have structure yet are quite smooth. Jammy fruit and higher alcohol reds with moderate tannins are good choices. You can stick to single varietals here or experiment with blends. It's best to avoid overtly tannic wines or oaked wines, as those don't translate well when warmed.
Merlot is a dark, purple-hued wine with notes of ripe brambly fruit, black cherry, Italian plum, dark chocolate, and hints of bay leaf and vanilla. It's a full-bodied red with medium tannins and acidity that comes across silky and strong on the palate. The dark fruit characteristics hold their own when warmed with fresh rounds of orange and a handful of cloves.
Zinfandel is another great choice for mulled wine. Boisterous, jammy fruit saturates the palate with hints of cinnamon and spice. This backdrop mimics the additional spices and makes for a big punch of flavor when served warm in your favorite mug.
Grenache is a rich and flavorful red with notes of roasted plum, stewed strawberry, blood orange, and dried herbs. It's got a fuller body with plenty of alcohol to do the trick, while the tannins and acidity are held in check. The natural profile of this wine plays beautifully when dolled up with a smattering of aromatics.
Looking for a rounded red blend to concoct your mulled wine? A blend featuring cabernet sauvignon and merlot as the stars bring dark fruit character like black cherry and black currant with hints of dried herb, chocolate, and graphite. The full-body of this wine is almost dizzying when warmed with aromatics on the stovetop, making it the perfect, luxurious finish to an evening.
Tips for Making Mulled Wine
Whether you follow a mulled wine recipe to a T or wing it as you reach for the spice cabinet is really up to you. Maybe you have your house edition that all the neighbors know and love during the holiday season. Essentially, there are no rules when it comes to specific ingredients. Some aromatics you might try experimenting with are cinnamon, clove, star anise, nutmeg, fresh ginger, cardamom, and chamomile along with apple, pear, lemon zest, honey, brandy, and orange slices.
While you want all these ingredients to linger and become one with the wine on the stovetop, you don't want to overheat the wine. Try to keep the heat low and allow for the spices to infuse into the liquid gradually. Once warmed, you can actually turn the heat off, and the aromatics will continue to infuse as they steep.
When it comes time to serve mulled wine, you can either strain all the bits and bobs out using a strainer or, if you like the effect, ladle the mulled wine directly into serving mugs, letting the whole star anise be the garnish as it floats to the top. Alternatively, you can fashion a sachet for all the spices, allowing for them to infuse without floating freely.
Get Cozy With Mulled Wine
To find that perfect boozy, brambly wine to get your mulled wine underway, stick with bold fruit, full-bodied, medium acidic, and moderately tannic red wines. Infusing your custom medley of spices and fruits into a jammy red wine is a cozy way to stay warm when the nights get cool.