Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mulling Over a Reader’s Question

Rhonda writes, “I love mulling wine at Christmas, but I never know what to buy for mulling. I don't want to buy something so yummy I feel as though mulling it would be a waste, but I am also a firm believer that you can't create a silk purse from a sow's ear. Thoughts?

Rhonda, your question brought back some very good memories of Germany, where they have "glühwein". The literal translation is glowwine, but I'm not sure whether it's the wine that glows or the drinker! It's very big there at the Weihnachten markt (Christmas market) and during Fasching (the week before Lent, also known as Carnival). The winters in Germany can be damp to the bone, so when you're out at the market or watching a Fasching parade, a cup or two of glühwein really hits the spot. They sell it on the street, which is very civilized.

Which wine to use? I agree with your comments about not using anything too yummy (or expensive) or too cheap either. I think that you should use a wine that you would be happy to drink ordinarily. So, for example, if you don't like Beaujolais Nouveau, don't use that.

Even so, and depending on your recipe, there can be some very dominant ingredients in mulled wine, such as clove and cinnamon. Don’t be disappointed if any wine’s flavours are overwhelmed.

I would go with something fuller-bodied but not too much tannin or acidity. Generalizations in wine are dangerous and varietal styles can be all over the map, but with that caveat out there, here’s what I would try in order of preference: Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carmenere (from Chile), Malbec (usually from Argentina), and Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre in France). If you make a fair bit of mulled wine, you could prepare several batches using different wines, and invite family and friends to pick a favourite.

Here are some specific recommendations for some fuller-bodied wines that might work for a mulled wine:
  • L.A. Cetto Petite Sirah 2007, # 983742, Price: $ 11.95, 13.5% ABV, Mexico
  • Spinelli Malbec, # 143750, Price: $ 7.95, 13.3% ABV, Italy
  • Fuzion Shiraz Malbec, # 83188, Price: $ 7.45, 13.3% ABV, Argentina
  • Bodegas Castano La Casona Monastrell, # 143743, Price: $ 8.95, 13.5% ABV, Spain
The Monastrell and Spinelli Malbec are relatively new to the LCBO but they may be in short supply as a couple of high-profile wine critics recommended them. You can check the LCBO on-line inventory (and look for inexpensive Carmenere, Zin, etc). Fuzion has been out for over a year and there was huge buzz about it (terrific value for money).

Let me know what you try and how it works!

[Update, Jan 14, 2010:  If you're looking for a mulled wine video-recipe, click here for one from Beppi Crosariol.]

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