We’re right in the thick of winter – and this is my first go at a Melbourne winter/eternal cloud – so it’s prime time to put just about everything in some kind of warming device. It’s cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey out there some days, so what do we do? Warm everything up. Food? Hot. Breakfast? Hot. Bed? Hot. House? Hot. Booze? Hot. Make some mulled wine, baby.
The fine art of adding things to cheap-ass red wine to make it taste good and nice, and then heating it up to make your tummy feel all good dates back a heck of a long time. It’s thought that the Romans pinned the idea of Red Wine But Hot back in the 2nd Century, in an attempt to keep their bodies warm over bitterly cold winters.
Then, as they spread their empire across Europe, the love of the Hot Winey Boys grew and now just about every pub down the road will drag out the slow cooker, urn, cauldron, or what-have-you to warm up whatever cheap reds they’ve gotta get rid of (probably).
Last winter I had the traditional Christmas-time tipple of glühwein while up at Mt Hotham, and sitting in the snow sipping on hot, sweet, spiced wine felt like I was in Germany in the middle of December or something. Pure bliss.
This winter I came across a traditional (???) 14th Century recipe for mulled wine at Winterfest Medieval Fair in the Hawkesbury a couple of weekends back, check it out below.
I can’t remember the name of the guild that had this but they also had a roast chook dressed as a knight on the back of a spit-roast pig and it was the best.
Anyway, the mulled wine recipe that I tend to follow isn’t a far stretch from the modern version that these big medieval stans have here, but it’s tried and true. And because the heating process tends to cook out a bit of the alcohol (I think) it’s really bloody easy to just sit and drink a few mugs of it without getting too wankered.
And thus below, Courto’s Very Good Mulled Wine for when you wanna impress everyone at the dinner party and also the solstice feast out yonder.
5L cask red wine (dolce rosso is good because it’s softer but still well-bodied)
1 cup raw sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
3-4 cloves, whole
2-3 star anise, whole
small handful of cardamom pods
1 bay leaf
1 vanilla pod, bruised
dash of brandy
1 apple, sliced into 1cm rounds
1 orange, halved and sliced
Melt down the sugar with a bit of the wine in the bottom of a large pot until it’s all liquid (use as much wine as you need to so it doesn’t burn).
If you like, pop all the spices into a cheesecloth pouch so you can get it out later with minimal mess and fuss.,
Add the rest of the wine along with all the spices/spice pouch, lower the heat and allow to heat through until fragrant and gently bubbling.
Fish out the spices (believe me, you don’t want to chomp down on a bit of star anise and make everything taste like liquorice.)
Drop in the brandy (pour as much or as little as you want), and stir through to get everything all friendly. You can also pop the fruit in now if you want it to soak up a bit of the wine.
Ladle into thick glasses or mugs, and make sure you get some of the fruit in each glass.
Absolutely muck around with the spice mix as well! Other bits and pieces like peppercorns, ginger, nutmeg, and citrus peel work well to give the wine a different kick. The world is absolutely your oyster, my friend.
And if it all goes to shit, I have absolutely Macgyver’d a mulled wine with some bottles of cleanskin and chai teabags. Desperate times, folks.