While traditionally a Christmas treat, mulled wine can bring a glow of warmth during Australia’s cold winter.
The history of mulled wine is long. The ancient Greeks would heat excess wine with spices to prevent waste. Later, the Romans used a honey and spice mix to heat with wine, not only to prevent waste, but to create a much sweeter tasting wine. In fact, one of the oldest cookbooks in existence (The Apicius) describes how to make Conditum Paradoxum (surprise spiced wine) as one of its first recipes (well before its horrifyingly curious recipe for ‘Braised Flamingo’).
By the middle ages, spices were thought to have numerous health benefits and mulled wine’s popularity spread throughout Europe. This popularity largely faded until the late 19th century when wine merchants began to market it as a Christmas drink.
For modern mulled wines, the standard list of ingredients includes star anise, cinnamon, citrus fruits and sweeteners like caster sugar and vanilla pods. But countless variations exist which explore a wide range of ingredients including honey, maple syrup, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and bay leaves.
When selecting which wine to use, the expert consensus is young, bright, and fruit driven reds work best. Delicate flavored wine such as pinot noir are often destroyed in the heating process, so bigger, bolder reds like Shiraz are more suitable (the Prosperitas 2017 South Australian Shiraz is perfect).
For the perfect modern mulled wine in 4 easy steps, try this recipe from Jamie Oliver:
200 g caster sugar
3 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
2 x 750 ml bottles of red wine
100 ml crème de cassis
1 whole nutmeg, for grating
1. Place the sugar and all the spices (except the nutmeg) into a large, heavy-bottomed pan.
2. Add the bay leaves and use a speed peeler to pare the zest of the lemon and oranges. Add to the pan, slice the oranges in half and squeeze in the juice.
3. Pour in just enough of the wine to cover all the ingredients. Place the pan over a medium heat, bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, or until all of the sugar is dissolved and you have a lovely fragrant syrup.
4. Add the rest of the wine and the crème de cassis, then gently heat for 10 minutes, until warm and fragrant. Be careful not to let the mixture boil. Serve hot, with fresh nutmeg grated on top.