Ever wanted to know how to make perfect mulled wine? Or mulled apple juice?
One of my favourite blogs is the Knackered Mothers’ Wine Club, written by Helen a (knackered) mother who knows a thing or two about wine after a 15 year career in the business. After I left a comment on her blog about a ‘really great Sicilian red I found at Tescos but lost the name’ and Helen magically knew exactly which wine I meant I was convinced she would be the one to ask about the mystery of mulling wine, and that other Christmas thing, curried leftover turkey (what wine could possibly go with that?). And then I realised other people might like to know this stuff too. Luckily, Helen agreed and so here she is!
Every year we have a small Christmas Eve party where we serve Mulled Apple Cider and Mulled Wine. And every year we experiment with the type of wine and mulling recipe. Sometimes it ends up tasting quite bitter, other times almost metallic. Once it was perfect but of course I can’t for the life of me remember the wine or the recipe, so we continue to experiment.
Here’s some great mulling tips from Helen and at the end you’ll see my tried and perfected recipe for mulling in our house (wine or apple juice).
M: Do you have any tips on which supermarket wines are best for mulling?
H: Most of the supermarkets now sell pre-spiced mulled wine in bottles so all you have to do is pour it into the pan and warm it up. Waitrose & Tesco both do good ones (£3.79 at Waitrose, £2.99 at Tesco) but I do think it is worth the effort of starting with a base red and making up your own special house recipe. I used really inexpensive Bulgarian Cabernet Sauvignon last year, with a splash of Port for added va-va-voom.
M: Many of my readers don’t live in the UK and so won’t have access to the same supermarkets, do you have any tips on how to choose a wine for mulling?
H: When it comes to making mulled wine, go for a robust red with good flavour so that it has at least half a chance of matching up to the earthy spices. Light-bodied reds just won’t cut it! Southern French or Chilean reds are great value for mulling.
M: Any special mulled wine recipes or tips?
H: Think about the balance of the flavours. Too sweet? Add more spice. Too spicy? Add more wine and sugar. Whatever you do, don’t overheat the wine. That is what can give it a metallic taste, and you’ll burn off all the alcohol. Very bad idea, obviously.
M: I know a lot of wine will be consumed over the next few weeks, are there any wines that are considered healthier–either lower calories or other health benefits?
H: There is a definite trend towards naturally lower alcohol wines, around 9-11% rather than the 14% and above thumpers. They say that red wine thins the blood, although too much leads to all sorts of problems so swings and roundabouts, as it were. I say everything in moderation, including moderation. It is Christmas, after all.
M: One of the most common leftover turkey recipes I see is a curry dish–can you really drink wine with curry? If so, what would you suggest?
H: Absolutely you can drink wine with curry; you just have to match it with the right style to bring out the best in each other. Oaky flavours and spices are an unhappy match so stay away from oaky wines. Tannins in a big red will clash with the spicy flavours, so give them a miss too. However, fruity whites with a touch of natural sweetness really sing with a curry. Try a white wine made the Gewürztraminer or Viognier grape with milder curries. If you like your curries hot, stick to beer.
M: And finally, I know of someone who is interested in wine, but is quite new to it–are there any courses or books or any other ideas you might suggest as a present I could give them for Christmas?
H: I’m writing a wine book but it is not finished yet! Hopefully next Christmas…In the meantime, there are lots of wine courses available now. The Wines & Spirits Education Trust (www.wsetglobal.com) offers a wide range of courses across the country. Independent wine schools and courses run by wine shops are popping up all over the place too. Check out how they approach it though, you want to be inspired rather than lectured. Get in touch if you want a recommendation for a course near you.
M: And now I think we need to know more about you–how did you get into all this?
H: I love my wine and I’m lucky enough to work in the wine business. I started the blog a few years ago when I stumbled into the world of mummy blogging quite by accident. At the time I was looking for answers on how to avoid getting mastitis AGAIN and a Google search led me to ‘A Modern Mother’, aka Susanna. Turns out I didn’t find the answer but I loved the idea of this community sharing information, supporting one another and making me laugh out loud on a regular basis. I decided it might be worth posting about my weekly fridge door white and red on the side, sharing my wine knowledge after 15 years in the business (I used to be a wine buyer for a big supermarket). Future plans involve growing my wine consultancy business, finishing the KMWC book and seeing the bottom of the washing basket.
To keep up to date on the progress of Helen’s book, learn more tips about wine, and to just be entertained by great writing be sure to check out Helen’s blog, Knackered Mothers’ Wine Club.
So… who’s inspired to mull some wine now?? I can’t wait!
My recipe for mulled wine (and this can also be used for mulled apple juice–for guests who want a non-alcoholic drink):
Per bottle of wine (see above for which wines are best), all amounts are approximate, adjust according to your taste!
Remember to SIMMER, never boil.
1. Slice up one or two clementines
2. Peel and thickly chop one inch of ginger (thick pieces mean you can retrieve them more easily later)
3. A teaspoon or so of ground cinnamon (gives a much better taste than throwing in a stick of cinnamon)
4. Grab a tea strainer and put in a pinch of whole cloves and two or three whole cardamon. Containing all this in the strainer makes fishing it out before serving so much easier!
5. Grate in a very generous punch of fresh nutmeg (ok, ground nutmeg from a jar will do as well)
6. Sugar, perhaps two tablespoons–this keeps it all from becoming bitter should you overheat it a bit–if you overheat it too much nothing will save it and rather than serve it to people just start again.
7. Some people also add a bay leaf or two, perhaps some brandy (about 1/4 cup per bottle), and/or a bit of vanilla extract (a teaspoon or so). I’ve even seen a few peppercorns thrown in the tea strainer for an added kick–perhaps leave out the cardamon if you add the pepper.
Now simmer gently. Gently! And enjoy…