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Mulled Wine

Some of you may remember Doug Badenoch — he worked for us for a few months two years ago before chucking corporate life and going back to his boyhood home in Bozeman, Montana to open a wine store. He borrowed a few ideas from us so now we are returning the favor. Here is a great piece on mulled wine from his weekly newsletter "The Grapevine." If you want to find out what is happening with wine in Bozeman, you can subscribe to Doug's newsletter at doug@bozemanwinegallery.com. (Just remember, when Doug says "chill of winter," it has a whole different meaning in Bozeman....)

The specifics on mulled wine

Coming up with something unique to serve your guests over the holidays can be a challenge, especially when it comes to concoctions to stave off the chilling bite of winter. Of all the options, mulled wine is a favorite. It's a classic wine-based drink that can be easily made ahead of time and served by the glass when family and friends pop over. Remember, as with any recipe, the real fun is in the interpretation so feel free to take the notes to add or create your own version. Don't forget to record the plans for your final concoction because once your guests take a sip they'll be dying to know how to make it themselves. Before you get started there are a few mulled wine rules.

Any red wine will do, and you don't have to spend much money, after all you're going to alter the taste considerably. Try a wine from Spain, Australia, Italy, or Chile. The one thing they typically have in common is a deep full fruit flavor and lots of rustic structure - perfect for mulling.

Never let the wine boil. If it's boiled it's spoiled. The flavor of the wine/spice combination will deteriorate if the mixture reaches the boiling point, so keep an eye on the stove. Actually, microwaving mulled wine by the glass or mug full is a better choice. The microwave process concentrates the flavor elements that can dissipate when mulled wine is made on the stove in an open-mouthed pot. I usually find that one-minute on high heat works best but get there in 20-second increments to ensure the mulled wine doesn't reach the boiling point.

Sugar is included in my ingredients list, because some find that added sugar soothes the tangy flavor the mulled wine can express after being warmed up. Some prefer diluting the mulled wine with herbal or citrus tea. Tea (especially citrus or herbal oriented varieties) not only softens the flavor but it adds subtle elements that the mulled wine doesn't have on its own. If tea or sugar isn't to your liking, try balancing the flavor by adding a little water to the blend before pouring.

Garnish with a cinnamon stick or candy cane. The candy cane is better if you use the clove or cinnamon flavored rather than the peppermint kind.

A Modern yet Traditional Mulled Wine Recipe

2 lemons
2 oranges
1 750 ml bottle of medium- to full-bodied red wine
1 ounce brandy or Cognac (or to taste)
1 cup (250 ml) granulated sugar (optional)
Herbal or citrus-influenced tea (optional but excellent)
Water (optional softener instead of tea)
4 large cinnamon sticks nutmeg (to taste)
Cloves (to taste)

Cut lemons and oranges into slices. Pour the red wine into saucepan and gradually heat. Add fruit slices, nutmeg, cloves and brandy.

Keep an eye on the mixture and wait until it becomes hot to the touch. (At this point you could blend in sugar or water, if desired.) Pour into glasses/mugs and add tea to taste. Garnish with cinnamon stick and candy cane. Makes four large portions.