The adding of spices to wine has a very long tradition in the world of wine. The Romans already flavoured some of their wine with sugar and spices to make it more pleasurable and longer lasting.
Apicius (30 BC) recorded a recipe for spicy wine which is definitely similar to our today’s recommendations for the making of mulled wine: cinnamon, laurel, star anise, coriander and thyme as well as a big portion of honey were supposed to be added to the wine.
More and more German winegrowers offer home-made mulled wine based on individual recipes (find offers, search for products: Glühwein), partly in organic quality. The very fruity red wines from the German wine-growing regions are well suited for aromatic mulled wine. By warming the wine, the aromas, which are reminiscent of red fruit, become even more expressive and are wonderfully harmonious in combination with the flavouring ingredients. White mulled wines, made from Riesling or Müller-Thurgau for example, are also on offer (pdf, list of producers).
Legally, mulled wine is a flavoured beverage containing wine, made exclusively from red or white wine and sweetened and flavoured. The addition of alcohol as well as water or colouring is prohibited. The actual alcohol content must be at least 7% vol. and less than 14.5% vol.
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Tips for making mulled wine
When warming the mulled wine you should make sure not to heat it too much or even let it simmer, as otherwise delicate fruit aromas will be lost and bitter agents will develop. Additionally, from a temperature of 78°C, alcohol will evaporate.
Don’t add too many spices all at once, and only little amounts. Too many cloves spoil the mulled wine. Cinnamon, star anise and allspice in too large amounts can cover the fruity aromas of the wine as well. Sweeten cautiously. If you are already using a semi-sweet wine, you often don’t need much sugar or honey.
Pay attention to quality
Make sure to use fresh spices and a quality wine. Designations such as "Winzer-Glühwein" (vintner’s mulled wine), or "Weingut" (wine estate) on the label guarantee that the mulled wine was made only from the producers‘ own wines and on their own premises. The designation "Deutscher Glühwein" (German mulled wine) on the label means that only domestic base wines were used.
Have enough time at hand
After the first warming let the mulled wine steep for a few hours, maybe even over night, so that the aromas can fully unfold. Then use a sieve to remove the spices for better enjoyment.
Drink in moderation
You will have the greatest pleasure if you use high-quality ingredients and drink mulled wine in moderation.