We’ve finally hit it.
That time of year where even the most stubborn stretches of California are giving in to winter. It’s getting cold here again.
Which means that it’s time to break out the mulled wine. After all, the stuff has been around nearly as long as grapes have been fermented. It would be a crime not to honor the drink’s long history when the weather permits.
It started, as a lot of things did, with the Greeks. These guys were real into their wine. And the idea of wasting any of it was laughable. So if a wine wasn’t great, they’d heat it up and toss in a few spices to make it palatable.
A few centuries later, early Roman foodie Marcus Gavius Apicius wrote down one of the earliest-known recipes for mulled wine. It was simple: Equal parts wine and honey reduced down and mixed with black pepper, mastic, bay leaf, safran, and dates (both roasted and fresh). And if this version doesn’t sound great, I get it. But the trend swept over Europe and stuck around even through the fall of the Roman Empire.
By the time we get to the Northern Renaissance, Europeans were convinced that they not only had a sweet, warm drink perfected, but that they had put together a bonafide health potion. The recipe is a little closer to what we would see today, with cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger making common appearances.
Fast forward to the modern era, and we take a few more liberties with the recipe. The current standard usually includes fresh fruit, brandy, and an assortment of baking spices.
Usually, we recommend going with a wine on the dry side that complements the flavors of the mulled wine. Our 2014 Merlot gives off wonderful aromas of oak spice, candied orange peel, and star anise. And it’s bold, toasty fruit and tannin mix on the palate are sure to make a delightful mulled wine to hunker down for the night with.
Combine ingredients in a saucepan and simmer for about 15 minutes. Be careful not to bring your mulled wine to a boil - you’ll burn off the alcohol (and there’s just no fun in that).