The perfect drink in winter, on a cold and snowy day skying in the Alps, don’t you think so? Well not exactly skiing this year as due to the Covid-19 pandemic, all ski lifts are closed in France. It’s so sad to see quiet sky resorts, closed restaurants… So in 2021 we experienced snowshoes in the wild valleys we usually go to in summer. And after months confined at home or under curfew, not being able to do much, it feels so good! And la cerise sur le gâteau (the cherry on the cake as we say in France, we don’t use the word icing on the cake to mean what’s really great) is having vin chaud mulled wine after a long day in the middle of nowhere, with beautiful landscape and silence.
So the authentic and traditional way to prepare mulled wine vary from one French region to another. In France, mulled wine is common in Alsace, East of France near Germany, where it is a stapple of Christmas markets marchés de Noël. In my native region in the Alps, it’s very common too, simply by heating wine, adding a few spices (mainly cinnamon, cardamom and star anise), and oranges.
And that smell… So particular and full of flavors that you can’t resist. Writing those lines I can remember the characteristic smell of spices warm wine at a stall at the farmers market I use to pass by on my way to school in the city of Albertville when I was a kid.
So here is what I do to make the best mulled wine the French way. First a few information:
- Which wine to choose for mulled wine? Carefully choose a good quality wine. Heating wine doesn’t mean you can choose a cheap wine. Choose an affordable fruity red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, grenache or merlot.
- No boiling To prevent mulled wine from becoming bitter, gently heat wine and increasing the heat very slowly, without bringing to a boil. Stop when it start to lightly simmer.
- Whole spices Cinnamon, star anise and cloves without are the 3 main spices used for a perfect vin chaud. You may also add cardamom, nutmeg, pepper, fennel seeds, or even vanilla to bring roundness. Choose whole spices that you will roughly crush with a pestle to release flavors. This is much flavorful than powdered spices but you’ll have to strain mulled wine through a fine-meshed strainer before serving. Fresh ginger add a peppery fresh kick to mulled wine.
- Citrus Orange for me, zest and juice, organic of course as peels will infuse in the wine. You may want to add a few slices of orange (I only do this to dress) or lemon to bring freshness to balance spices.
- Sugar You might want to increase the amount of sugar if you like mulled wine very sweet.
Those two mountains are called Chpeau de gendarme (cop’s hat) and Pain de sucre (sugar loaf), located in the Ubaye Valley, South Alps at a ski resort called Pra Loup. Isn’t the view from our balcony amazing?.