The festive season is round the corner and this is the time people are checking on their rum-soaked raisings, bringing out their best reds and digging out grandma's recipes for the perfect mulled wine. With less than a month for Christmas, there's just about enough time to make this wine equivalent of hot toddy. When winter weather swirls in, nothing could be cozier than a toasty mug of mulled wine. Mulled wine is a traditional holiday treat in many countries. They have been warming peo ple for centuries; they are wines that have been sweetened, spiced and slightly heated.
One of the mistakes that people make while attempting to make mulled wine at home is to use cheap wine, perhaps in the hope that the spices would elevate the experience. Sadly, that's not the case because even the brandy you add to it fails to mask the poor quality of wine. You don't have to bring out your Bordeaux but select a good 750 ml of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel or even a Merlot. Use one peeled and sliced orange, but retain the peel so you can add a zest while stirring the wine in the cooking vessel.
Apart from a quarter cup of brandy, you can spice the wine with 8-10 cloves, 1/3 cup honey or sugar and a few cinnamon sticks. Adding one tsp of fresh ground ginger adds another spicy dimension to the wine.
Combine all ingredients in either a large pot or a slow cooker. Gently warm the ingredients on low to medium heat (avoid boiling), for 20-25 minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure that the honey or sugar has completely dissolved. When the wine is steaming and the ingredients have been well blended it is ready to serve. A lot of people prefer to age their mulled wine, and if you're one of them, let the wine cool before placing it in sterilised bottles.
Randolph is the sommelier at Spices, Mumbai...