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Probably the world best mulled wine

Since quite a few years, I have had a quite unique idea, which popped up in my mind now and then - but particularly in the holiday season. Why not barrel age mulled wine?!

I have been growing up with German Glühwein and since I am working in the beverage service industry, I have been following a lot of recipes with increasing results.

I have been quite bold a couple of weeks ago, in a Chaîne des Rôtisseurs event, when I have paired barrel aged mulled wine with "quatre-epice foie gras". The real surprise however were the raving reviews and comments about the pairing as well as my mulled wine. Even more surprising was, that there were a lot of German members (here in the UAE chapter of this club), which know their mulled wine, and elevated it to the "best Glühwein they ever had".

Carried by this success, I'd like to share with you my "secrets", of making a pretty much kick ass mulled wine.

I don't give here some specific measurements - not due to a trade-secret, but because every red wine base is a bit different, hence you would like to add more or less spices and more or less sugar...

  • Red wine
    • Don't get out your fine wine here... a weekday/drinkable wine does the job. Medium-light to medium body (which is normal in this "quality range" does the job best.
    • I prefer pinotage/ inexpensive pinot noir, valpolicella - but any ok wine will do.
  • Sugar
    • White sugar (base)
    • Demerara sugar (about 20% of the white sugar)
  • Fruit
    • Oranges
    • Lemons
      • in previous years, I made a lot of lemon and orange twists and added the fruits devoid of their pith. However it is far easier to just add the full washed fruits into it (and the cross cut, will ensure, that some of the juice will also flavor the wine). It is far more effective. 
  • Spices (all whole)
    • Cinnamon (!!!)
    • Vanilla (!!)
    • Cloves (!!!)
    • Star anise (!!)
    • Mace (!)
    • Allspice (!)
    • Cardamom (!)
    • Coriander seeds (!)
    • Fennel seeds (!)
  • Fortification
    • Aged Rum

Heat up your red wine - don't let it boil - just heat it up to ca. 70C. Add directly all the spices (breaking up the cinnamon sticks, scratching out the vanilla pods, bruising the cardamom pods).
Cut into the oranges and lemons on the sides crosswise and add as well to the wine.
Sweeten to taste with sugar and Demerara sugar.
Let it infuse about 2 hours.
Add the rum.
Let it chill down and add the wine to seasoned oak barrels.
Age depending on the size  of the barrel, and on own taste for 1 week to 10 weeks.
Bottle the mulled wine and keep until (next) holiday season.

I have to be very honest here - there are two things, which make this recipe special:
  1. The spice mix
    I haven't seen mulled wine recipe with vanilla - but this addition makes it so good! Yeah - it makes it also far more expensive - but really, this is absolutely worth it (you wanna make the world best mulled wine here, correct?).
  2. The barrel aging
    Everybody in the event mentioned, that the Glühwein was also not so sweet. This was due to the balance, which the oak "added". I struggled before with the sugar content - it was either not sweet enough or too sweet (not depending on the recipe but on the guest) - I learned that the aging takes off the "edge" of the sweetness - just makes it superior.
You might ask yourself, why I don't make a secret out of it... that's also simple - I am tasting as I am going - hence the perfect balance of ingredients needs still a bit of experience  - and second, not everyone has (or want to sacrifice) oak barrels for their mulled wine (we have 2x virgin 20l+ oak barrels filled with the wine). And making a superior mulled wine, would help everyone of us!

At the end, it is the "not so much competitive" holiday season.


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