Mulled wine reminds me of home. It is the perfect drink to fight off the cold during an outdoor gathering in the winter. Like the one I used to attend back home every Christmas Eve. Every year, on the night of Christmas Eve, the whole village gathers in the church for midnight mass. After the service, people linger in front of the church and take their time to catch up with friends and wish one another a merry Christmas. To make this moment even more idyllic, kind volunteers hand around steaming cups of mulled wine and slices of panettone.
I know I sound cold-hearted when I say I’m happy with my life abroad and I have no intention of going back. It is true, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss certain small things from my hometown. The community feeling that exchanging Christmas wishes in front of the church creates is one of those. And the wine, don’t even get me started. In my humble opinion my region, Piedmont, produces among the finest wines you can find in the world. You can well imagine how delicious the mulled wine served in my village is.
Sadly access to quality wine in Sweden costs a fortune. Luckily, my parents visit once or twice a year with a suitcase full of local wine. That supply has to last until their next visit, so I have learned to enjoy it sparingly. Having guests over now for New Year’s Eve I opened a bottle of Dolcetto, probably my favourite red, and made some mulled wine with it. In Italian we call it vin brulé.
Mulled wine recipe
- 300 ml red wine
- 60 g sugar
- 1/2 orange, juiced and peeled
- 1 star anise pod
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 5-6 cloves
Peel and squeeze 1/2 orange. Transfer the zest and juice to a pot. Add the sugar, the cinnamon stick, the cloves and 100 ml of wine and bring to a boil, constantly stirring to dissolve the sugar. When it reaches boiling temperature, add the star anise pod and the rest of the wine and keep it on the stove until it steams but does not boil. Remove from the heat before it reaches boiling temperature. Serve hot.
The star of the recipe is definitely the wine (okay, no, the star is the anise, right? Sorry, don’t mind my lame jokes). The higher the quality of the wine, the better the end product. Although some of the alcohol will evaporate, a low quality wine might still smell like alcohol, its flavour overshadowing the combined smell of the spices. A good quality wine will result in a full-bodied mulled wine that will also have a balanced smell of spices.
The spices are another important feature. The cloves and cinnamon I used are from Zanzibar, and the star anise comes from China. As for the orange, I advise to buy it organic if possible. That should always be the first choice when planning to use the zest of a citrus.
A glass of this mulled wine might not conjure up a merry community of villagers hugging one another in the cold air of a winter night, but it will certainly warm you up from the inside as if you were there, outside a church in a mountain village somewhere in the Alps on Christmas Eve.