Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Happy Hour: Mulled Wine

As a reprieve from writing about our various projects, events, and progress at Schram Vineyards, I am going to start a regular Happy Hour post.  No promises on what day of the week these will come out or even how often,  but I will make an effort to pepper my blog with some of these posts dedicated to wine, wine tastings, and even some wine related crafts.  Something Aaron and I started doing together last year is designating a wine night for the two of us.  I know, I know...every night is wine night for us!  It's a tough life having to drink wine for this business, but it's "research." But really, it's a night where we set aside an hour or two to further our knowledge of the industry, wine, Minnesota wine, to experiment, to research, to plan, really whatever as long as it involves wine!  We call it happy hour.  What better forum than this blog to share some of what we are learning and doing?

With the holidays approaching and cool weather setting in, I thought I'd share our hot spiced mulled wine libation, which has been a hit at our Harvest party the last two years.  Similar to Sangria, there is no one recipe for making mulled wine.  There are lots of variations and I've never used the same ingredients or measurements every time.  Plus I'm not big on using exact measurements myself.  It's just a matter of adding this and that until it tastes to your liking and within the characteristics of mulled wine.  In general, here is what you will need to make your own mulled wine:

1.  If you've ever wanted an excuse to use cheap wine and serve it to your guests, this is your opportunity because the spices in a mulled wine help cover up the wine's flaws!  If you happen to make your own wine, you can use a batch of wine that maybe didn't turn out to your liking, or one that isn't worth bottling on its own or one you're saving just for blending.  A dry wine works best for mulled wine.  Last time I made it, I  used a Cabernet from a kit we made last year that we weren't crazy about.  We decided it wasn't good enough on its own to bottle and drink, but it made great mulled wine! 

2.  Find a crockpot or a big coffee urn so you can warm up the wine.  Pour the wine in and keep it on low heat.

3.  Stir in sugar.  This is a spiced sweet warmed wine.  Add about 1/2 cup of sugar for each 750 ml bottle of wine.  Just don't add too much...you don't want it to taste like wine kool-aid.  If you are feeling especially punchy, you can also add a bit of brandy.  Something to keep in mind...a little goes a long way!

 4.  Add spices.  Here is where you can get creative.  My personal preference is to go to the grocery store and just buy the pack of mulling spices for $1.41 (see below), which includes cloves, allspice, orange and lemon peels, nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon. I pierce an orange with whole cloves (see above) and let that float in the pot to get some orange zest and clove flavor and I also put in a a few cinnamon sticks.  You can also take the mulling spices and put them in a cheese cloth to float around in the crock pot or perk through a coffee pot to filter the wine through the spices.  You just don't want the spices floating around themselves so they get poured into the drink!  You could use these same spices for a hot apple cider too. 

5.  Let the spices "mull" a bit in the wine and keep on low heat.

6.  Serve and enjoy!