Saturday July 26, 2014

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Warm up this winter with mulled wine

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As this cool weather persists it seems odd to me that many of us only think to serve mulled wine over the holidays.

Think of it this way - mulled wine is to winter as Sangria is to summer. Seasonally appropriate, easy to make and delicious.

The history of mulled wine can be traced back to first century Rome, where it was originally made to protect wine from spoiling.

Since then, many different people and cultures have adapted the recipe to suit their tastes and cuisines. As a matter of fact, when I was investigating the history of mulled wine and browsing through the recipes, I was amazed as just how much variation there is.

The Nordic refer to mulled wine as glögg and make both alcohol and non-alcohol versions -  some with fruit juice, often blackcurrant, while other versions may be made with red or white wine or spirits, most often port or whiskey.

Typically, glögg is served with rice pudding or ginger snaps.

Mulled wine made from port, red wine, lemons, oranges and spices, known as “smoking Bishop”  has been popular in Britain since it's mention in Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol.

Other variants exist, for example a “smoking Pope” is made using red wine from Burgundy, while a “smoking Cardinal” is made with champagne.

In France, vin chaud or “hot wine” calls for lemon and eau-de-vie (water of life), a distilled spirit.

Germany, on the other hand, produces gluhwein from red wine and raisins and some recipes call for the addition of a shot of alcohol.

Greyano vino “heated wine” from Bulgaria is made of a combination of wine, honey and peppercorn while Hungarians make forralt bor “boiled wine” from their famous red wine Egri Bikavér (Bull's Blood of Eger) blended with spices and Amaretto.

In Canada, the Quebecois version is a blend of red wine, maple syrup and hard alcohol known as caribou.  

Recipe for Mulled Wine:
4 cups apple cider
1  - 750 ml Cabernet Sauvignon
1/4 cup honey
2 cinnamon sticks
1 orange - both the zest and juice
4 whole cloves
3 star anise
oranges for garnish

Combine the cider, wine, honey, cinnamon sticks, zest, juice, cloves and star anise in a large pan, bring to a low boil then simmer on low heat for 10 min. Strain. Garnish with orange peel and serve.

Although this recipe calls for Cabernet Sauvignon, you may wish to substitute a less tannic, fruitier wine. If so, try a full-bodied fruity Zinfandel, spicy Shiraz, or Merlot.  

DFJ Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, 2008, Portugal, PRICE: $18.06
This wine, from the Lisbon area of Portugal, is a blend of the red grapes Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca, grapes most often used for Port production.

This full-bodied dry wine has a floral nose complimented by black licorice and dried fruit. The savory palate features smoked meat, cloves and oysters.

Torres Salmos, 2009, Spain, PRICE: $36.10

Salmos is a red blend of Garnacha, Syrah and Carinena from the Priorat area of Spain.

This wine, made in a modern style, has concentrated flavors of black fruit, sour red berries and spice, complimented by warm alcohol, moderate to high acidity and smooth fine tannins. It is a forward, bold and full-bodied wine with a long fruit and spice-dominated finish.

Les Vins de Vienne Les Cranilles, 2010, France, PRICE: ($19.99  private wine store listing)

This dry high alcohol (14.8 per cent) medium- to full-bodied red blend spends 12 months in a combination of tanks and barrels.

It is dark garnet in color with an earthy profile of soil, barnyard, dried tobacco, sage, and red cherry.


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