How to make vin brulé, Italian mulled wine. Serve this sweet and spiced hot wine at your next Christmas celebrations or enjoy the lovely mixture of flavours throughout the whole season! And let its flavour vicariously take you to an Alpine village on a crisp winter day.
There are varius types of mulled wine served around the world, so here’s the mulled wine from Italy. Vin brulé is a spiced hot beverage made with red wine and orange zest, plus a variety of spices. While you can choose your wine from a wide array of grapes, I’ll give you may personal favourites from my home region.
What is vin brulé
Vin brulé is a Christmas drink from the Alpine regions of northern Italy. It is a sweetened and flavoured wine beverage mostly associated with the Christmas period. While many mulled wine variations (including glögg and Gluhwein) may include the addition of a spirit to increase the alcoholic content of the beverage, vin brulé is exclusively wine based. The name (in French) means “burnt wine”, as vin brulé is basically just wine that has been simmered – not really burned.
Just like with most mulled wine recipes, the palate is developed with a combination of spices and flavourings that are added to the wine. The traditional vin brulé spices are cloves and cinnamon, and in my recipe I also add star anise. Another unmissable ingredient is orange – sometimes it may just be the peel of a fresh orange like in Campari spritz, but I usually go for the juice as well. Zero waste.
How to make Italian mulled wine
The main ingredient in vin brulé is obviously red wine. For the best flavour, a dry wine is recommended. See wine recommendations below.
Here are the other spices and flavourings:
- Thinly peel the orange trying to get as little as possible of the white bitter part. Cut the orange in half and squeeze it.
- Transfer the orange juice and zest to a saucepan. Add the sugar, cinnamon sticks, cloves and one glass of wine (150 ml) and bring to a boil, constantly stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- When the mixture reaches boiling temperature, add the star anise pods and the rest of the wine and keep it on the stove until it steams but does not boil.
- Remove from the heat just before it reaches boiling temperature. Serve hot.
What kind of wine in vin brulé?
Vin brulé is traditionally made with red wine although lesser-known variations of the recipe exist that call for white wine. Here are some good tips when choosing wine for vin brulé:
- Dry wine is perfect because we are adding sugar, so aim for anything with up to 9 g/L of residual sugar. A wine with a lot of residual sugar might deliver an end product that is too sweet.
- Medium-low acidity is another great factor, since we are adding orange juice. It is important that your mulled wine does not end up too zippy – that’s generally a quality more appreciated in the warmer months.
- Min. 13% ABV (alcohol by volume) is recommended, as the alcohol in wine will partially evaporate. Traditional vin brulé should have a boozy quality so we need to ensure that.
- Barrel aged wines often have a spiced quality lent by the wood that makes them excellent mulled wine material. Oak barrels can give wines cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla notes which are definitely a bonus point. Here you can learn more about spiced wines.
In Italy it is very common to use local wines, so the choice is often regional. In my home region of Piedmont, the most common grapes for mulled wine are Dolcetto and Nebbiolo. Barbera grapes produce wines that have a usually higher acidity, so if you use Barbera skip the orange juice and just use the zest.
How to serve vin brulé
Keeping the spices in the wine for too long, especially on a continuous source of heat, will infuse the beverage too much changing the original flavour. Pour the mulled wine through a sieve to retain spices and orange peel if not serving immediately.
If serving immediately, it is okay to let some of the spices land in the serving mugs. Just make sure to inform your guests to avoid choking hazards!
Vin brulé is meant to be enjoyed hot, so keep it in a thermos or on low heat to make sure it stays warm. Make sure to never have it boiling, in order to not evaporate the alcohol completely.
Excellent Italian mulled wine pairings
The number one pairing to vin brulé is obviously panettone, the traditional Italian Christmas cake. But living abroad I have learned to appreciate different pairings – finding panettone abroad is not always easy. So here are some other possible options that can go well with Italian mulled wine:
- Swedish saffron buns are mildly sweet and have this intense saffron flavour that nicely complements the other spices in mulled wine.
- Spiced plum jam spread on a slice of sourdough bread is a lovely consistent pairing, with its delicate cloves aroma.
- Swedish ginger thins – the Ikea cookies – are a great match. I mean, mulled wine and gingerbread are made for each other.
- Spiced pear crisp is a fantastic dessert that can go so well with a mug of mulled wine!
- Venison empanadas with their subtle cinnamon hint are the perfect savoury pastry if you prefer something that is not sweet.
Beer lovers in your company? Treat them to Polish mulled beer!
If you enjoyed this recipe please leave a comment below. Planning to try your hand at vin brulé at a later time? Pin the recipe to Pinterest!
Vin brulé - Italian mulled wine
A spiced hot drink made with red wine and orange juice, vin brulé is a popular Christmas time drink from northern Italy.
- 750 ml red wine 1 bottle
- 120 g sugar
- 1 orange
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 star anise pods
- 10 whole cloves
Thinly peel the orange using a vegetable peeler to get as little as possible of the white bitter part. After that, cut the orange in half and squeeze it.
Transfer the orange juice and peel to a saucepan. Add the sugar, cinnamon sticks, cloves and one glass of wine (about 150 ml) and bring to a boil, constantly stirring to dissolve the sugar.
When the mixture reaches boiling temperature, add the star anise pods and the rest of the wine and keep it on the stove until it steams but does not boil.
Remove from the heat just before it reaches boiling temperature. Serve hot.
Serve this beverage hot. If you cannot serve it immediately, keep it on the lowest possible heat to prevent it from reaching boiling temperature and the subsequent evaporation of the alcohol.
Pour the mulled wine through a sieve to retain spices and orange peel if not serving vin brulé immediately. Keeping the spices in the wine for too long, especially on a continuous source of heat, would infuse the beverage too much ruining its original flavour.
This recipe was originally published in January 2017 and has been updated in October 2020 with new pictures and a recipe card. Edited October 2021 with more thorough wine information.