In Central Europe it is common for people to drink hot mulled wine to warm up on a cold winter day. The spiced mulled wine with its distinctive scent is as traditional as the Christmas tree and gingerbread men. It is the most popular drink at the Christmas Market.
History of Spiced Wine
Ancient Greeks spiced their wines. It was the Roman culture, however, that created the hot spiced wine. The Romans added spices to their wine in order to extend its shelf life and to improve the taste of their sour wine. The first mention of spiced wine comes from a two thousand year old Roman cookbook by a wealthy merchant called Apicius. It describes a recipe for enhancing wine with various spices like cloves, cinnamon, bay leaf, coriander, thyme, nutmeg and allspice. During the times of the Roman Empire spices were very expensive and they were only available to the wealthy upper class.
In the Middle Ages spiced wines were enjoyed cold. Honey was added to take out the sour taste of wine because in those days their wines were not sweet or fruity like some wines are today. The sugar in honey not only greatly enhanced the taste, but it also extended the wine’s shelf life. Spiced wine was considered to be a remedy for all kinds of ailments. We now know that essential oils from the spices that were added could possibly be a reason for the positive effect of spiced wine.
Cloves, cinnamon and cardamom, for example, are all believed to aid in digestion, reduce bloating and strengthen the immune system. They are also said to have anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Today, red mulled wine is the most commonly served across Europe but in some regions, like Northern Italy, white mulled wine seems to be more popular. Sometimes people will add rum to enhance its effects. There are many different names for similar types of mulled wines.
In German hot mulled wine is called “Gluehwein”. Glueh means glow, as in hot, and Wein means wine. If you have ever had a cup you will know that it can make you feel warm and some even say it will open up a stuffy nose. You can’t escape the scent of hot mulled wine when you take a stroll across a European Christmas Market.
Hot Mulled Wine Recipe
Do not boil the wine or it will lose its alcohol and change flavor. Mulled wine must never be boiled.
Pour a bottle of wine into a pot and add two cinnamon sticks, sugar and four to six whole cloves. You may also add other spices like cardamom or anise.
Heat it up slowly until you see steam. Turn the stove off.
Many recipes will have you add orange or lemon slices or sliced star fruit at this point.
Let sit for a few minutes, then serve hot.