WINE O’CLOCK: Some like it hot – but not me
I am not a fan of mulled wine. I like the idea of it spreading warmth on a winter’s day and I like the smell of the fruit and spices, but the drink is always disappointing and it has ruined many a party at this time of year. I am expecting a nice glass of chilled chablis but end up clutching a plastic cup of warm, sweet water.
The tradition of mulling wine is an old one – but the same can be said for bear baiting and cock fighting; it’s no excuse.
Felicity Cloake, a journalist with The Guardian in London, tried out a recipe from 1390. She ground together cinnamon, ginger, galangal, cloves, long pepper, nutmeg, marjoram, cardamom, grains of paradise (?) and Indian root, slung in some cheap French red and sugar and heated it all. Her verdict: “It tastes like something that might have been used to ward off the plague.”
Jamie Oliver has a recipe that kicks off with a syrup base, made by putting sugar in a large pan along with some clementine juice and peel, lemon and lime peel, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaves, nutmeg and vanilla, and then pouring in enough red wine to just cover it all. This concoction is gently heated until the sugar has dissolved, at which point the cook cranks up the heat and keeps the mixture at boiling point until it becomes a thick syrup. He then pours in the rest of the wine and reheats.
Seems like an awfully difficult way of spoiling wine.
I prefer Delia Smith’s simple process: heat a couple of bottles of red wine with six tablespoons of honey, an orange studded with cloves, a few slices of orange and lemon, some ground ginger and a cinnamon stick, and allow to simmer gently for 20 minutes before serving.
You want a pretty sturdy red for this and one that’s not too dear. If you are going to spoil wine, spoil cheap wine, I say.
Try Cal y Cantro Tempranillo (€10.95, The Wine Centre, Kilkenny), a rich Spanish blend of Tempranillo, Merlot and Syrah. Or Ossado Shiraz (€9.99, Worldwide Wines, Waterford), a deep, fruity, Argentinian.
These are good value wines. Taste them before you ruin them and maybe you won’t bother.