You can’t go wrong with a mulled wine to warm up your winter nights! In case you missed it, the Spice Mistress (aka @Sarina Kamini on IG and FB) took our followers through a virtual spice masterclass on Facebook Live over lockdown, and now will be running a masterclass IRL during the Cabin Fever Weekender this July. The event is about to sell out, so we’ve asked Sarina to share some of her mulled wine tips with us, so everyone can enjoy. ‘Cause everyone deserves a little spice in their life. 😉
Mulled wine is, for me, all about the intersection of the structure of wine and the aroma of spice.
Tip 1. Choose your wine, and choose a good one. The quality of wine matters enormously to the end result. A good quality wine should have structure, texture and layered aroma. I chose for this recipe to work with a Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot blend from Amato Vino - The Brad 2017 - because I like the way winemaker Brad Wehr lets his wines live a little. As a minimal interventionist winemaker, Brad allows his wines to carry their own grab bag of personality, shape and texture. This gives spice a lot of structure to hang off.
Tip 2. Choose your spice based on the inherent character of your wine. "The Brad” has great savoury character, which means savoury spice won’t overwhelm or feel discordant. I like my mulled wine to err on the side of interest and complexity rather than overt warmth and sweetness. I played with fenugreek seed, bay leaf and coriander seed (bitter, astringent and herbaceous in turn) to lighten up the classic inclusion of cinnamon, clove and star anise. Just a little bit of sugar to take the edge off. If you like your mulled wine sweeter or warmer, I’d veer into Shiraz territory with black cardamom. A Tempranillo with a spice blend centred green cardamom would would be interesting to play with, too.
Tip 3. Play smart with contrast. Enjoying a savoury end result doesn’t mean veering away from sweetness all together. Spice works on light and shade. I taste savoury character more clearly when there is a little sweetness in there to show difference. Lighting up the edge is where real nuance and deliciousness is discovered. Play with your own recipe by using an equal and opposite theory - pair spice up with its opposite to add depth to the end result. Cinnamon and bay leaf. Orange and clove. Star anise and coriander seed. You get the picture.
Tip 4. Pair back the sugar. Sugar is a dumb way to draw out sweetness and warmth. Use a scant amount, play with your spices and fruits, and if the end result falls short on the sweet front, a little honey stirred through at the end will see you through. Better to find pleasure via aromatics than sugars.
Tip 5. Low and slow. Keep your mulled wine beneath a simmer at all times. Too high a heat and you’ll burn off the alcohol. Also be prepared to lose some volume - I found that the wine did cook down and I was left with less than I’d hoped.
Put all spice in a pot with the bottle of wine and the orange slices and simmer on low heat for at least 15 minutes. Longer is better. Just watch for evaporation. Serve in a warm glass.