In this guide, we'll give you all the details on the best wine for mulled wine, what mulled wine is, and give you the best homemade recipe to meet your preference + taste! Plus, we're sharing our favorite wine pick and where to buy it!
I’m super excited to share this recipe with you today and tell you my top picks for the best wine for mulled wine!
First, I thought I’d get a little personal and share a background as to why I’m so attached to this delicious drink. Funny enough it has everything to do with getting pregnant and a little place in France, fondly known as the Capital of Christmas.
Where it all began…
This month marks 10 years exactly when I found out that I was going to be a mom. After YEARS of trying to get pregnant (to the point where we’d done 3 rounds of IVF), it took selling our houses and traveling to the world for my body to finally say – “ok, you’re ready now”….in the middle of Africa.
I will never forget the moment when I crawled into our tent, the morning we were set to journey to the Ngorongoro Crater, to show my husband the pregnancy test. His words exactly…. “You've got to be kidding me.”
So what does all this have to do with mulled wine? Well, bear with me a bit longer…
After not believing, but still hanging on to a glimmer of hope, that this pregnancy was actually going to be viable, we decided to change our travel plans. Instead of heading to our next destination, Nepal, we headed to South Africa. South Africa has excellent medical care, so instead of heading home we figured we’d wait out the first crucial weeks to confirm that it was, in fact, a healthy pregnancy.
As soon as we found out that this little bean was going to have a chance in this world, we left South Africa and headed to the Capital of Christmas, Strasbourg!
Christmas Markets + Cocktails
Strasbourg was my first real connection to authentic mulled wine. At Christmas time, this city turns into a medieval wonderland, full of lights and Christmas markets. It’s like walking through an old world fairytale. And, around every corner, you can get yourself a glass of warm, spiced wine.
I know what you’re thinking….”um, didn’t you just find out you were pregnant?”. Yup, sure did! And, although I did tease myself with a couple sips of this intoxicating elixir, I firmly believe that the abstinence I endured, whilst being full of happy pregnancy hormones, comfort and hope, is the reason that, to this day, I’m still totally obsessed with mulled wine at Christmas!
So obvious now right?! lol
Now, I will delay you no further, so let’s get to the details and the recipe so YOU can feel all the feels of this delicious holiday drink. It's like a hug that warms you from the inside out!
What is Mulled Wine?
Mulled Wine is wine that has been spiced up and served warm! Traditionally this warm or hot wine was made by steaming the wine in a kettle over a fire, which is why, in English-Speaking countries, we call it “mulled” wine.
An Ancient Elixir
This traditional drink comes from Europe and dates back to Ancient Greece, 2,000 years ago! In the middle ages, wine was always consumed at room temperature as there was no way to keep it cold. Then, in colder weather, the wine was warmed further and mulled with spices to preserve it and warm people up! Now, in modern times, the spiced wine beverage is one of the favorite holiday, winter-time, cocktails.
This drink has various names attached along with different variations. For example, in German it’s called Glühwein. In Italy it’s called Vin Brulé. In Swedish it’s called Glogg and in Spain Glü Café.
The main ingredients for all of the variations are red wine and spices. Some traditional ingredients include orange slices, lemon zest, whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, black pepper and fresh ginger. You can also add other spices like star anise, cardamom, and black peppercorns. You might also see additions of orange peels, raisins and even other alcohols such as brandy or rum. In Poland, they actually use mulled wine as a mixer to pair with vodka!
To sweeten the mulled wine, this is really a personal choice. You can use regular white sugar, honey, or maple syrup. Some recipes also use fruit juices like orange juice or even apple cider.
I like to make mulled wine on the stovetop, in a pot, or in a slow cooker. The slow cooker helps keep the mixture at the perfect, low heat temperature!
Recently, I’ve even come across some main dish recipes that include mulled wine as an ingredient. In Germany they like to serve it with sausages and how about this recipe for Mulled wine carrots with crispy sage breadcrumbs!
What type of wine was traditionally used to make mulled wine?
Traditionally, the type of wine used to make mulled wine is a dry, red wine that is low in tannins and acidity. However, the type of wine used in traditional recipes highly depends on which region of the world it’s being made! It could be a Pinot Noir, Grenache, Trollinger or Barbera.
For example, a traditional German mulled wine, or glühwein would use Spätburgunder, Dornfelder, or a Trollinger.
In Northern Italy, you will find their mulled wine, or Vin Brulé, made with Barbera, Dolcetto or a Montepulciano.
In Spain, their mulled wine which is also known as Vino Caliete, would use a Grenache or a Bobal.
Finally, in France, where their mulled wine, known as Vin Chaud, would be made with a Gamay or a Pinot Noir.
Also keep in mind that each region has a slightly different take on their recipes. For example, a traditional German recipe may include rum in addition to the typical ingredients.
How do different wines affect the taste of mulled wine?
Different wines will have different effects on the taste of the mulled wine due to the unique characteristics each type of wine has. Two of the main factors that will change the flavor of the outcome are tannins and acidity!
What are tannins?
Tannins are chemical compounds that are naturally present in the skins, stems and seeds of grapes. You can also find tannins in other foods such as coffee, tea and chocolate.
These little compounds cause the bitter taste and dry sensation in the mouth.
Different grapes contain different levels of tannins with thick skinned grapes having the potential to contain more than other varieties with thinner skins.
So which wines have the highest tannin content? Typically, high tannin wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbecs, Syrah/Shiraz and Tempranillo.
Some examples of thinner skin grapes, and therefore low tannin content include Pinot Noir, Grenache and Gamays. Click the link for a full list of low tannin red wine.
How does acidity affect the taste of wine?
The acidity of a wine affects the taste by creating a sour taste in the mouth.
The acidity level of a wine is determined by the grape and the additives used in the winemaking process.
When a wine is made with unripe grapes, or grapes that have been grown in cooler climates, the pH and the sugar content of the fruit is lower. I really liked the explanation found through the link on where wine gets its acidity from.
For even more details on Tannins vs. Acidity check out this post on Tannins vs. Acidity from Small Wine Makers.
Does the quality of wine matter?
The answer to whether the quality of wine matters when it comes to mulled wine is, Yes!…. and no.
It’s really all about taste, so finding a wine that you like, at a price point that you’re comfortable with, is really all that matters.
That said, some overly affordable wines (that’s a nice way of saying cheap 😆) can have additives, added sugar or preservatives that can negatively affect the taste of your mulled wine….and your hangover!
What type of wine is best for mulled wine?
So with all that info let’s answer the questions we’re all here for!
The best wine is a dry, red wine with low tannins and lower acidity. Your best bet is to go with a Pinot Noir followed by Gamays, Grenache and Barberas. These varieties are all low in tannins. Pinot noir tends to be the lowest in acidity with the remaining three having a more moderate acidity level.
Choosing a wine with low acidity and low tannins will mean you won’t have to manipulate the ingredients as much to achieve the taste you’re looking for.
For example, if you start with a wine that is moderately acidic with higher tannins, like a Shiraz, you may need to add extra sugar to balance out the flavor. Adding sweetness to mulled wine does decrease the sensation of acidity in the mouth but then you’ll have extra sugar in the recipe that you may not have needed if you chose a different type of wine.
In addition to that, you might also need to play around with the spices to mask and avoid a bitter taste.
We prefer a Pinot Noir as it gives a fruity, easy drinking mulled wine, with low bitter or sour flavors.
What is the healthiest wine for mulled wine?
If you’ve followed Root + Revel for a while you’ll know that we aim to limit our sugar intake but still find the tastiest options and recipes! Finding that balance between good and good for you. And, personally, when it comes to wine I like to choose one that has low residual sugar content.
It’s good to remember too, that a low sugar wine can still taste perfectly sweet! If you’re interested in learning more, check out our post on Low Sugar Wine for more info!
So when it comes to making my own mulled wine, I tend to choose a Pinot Noir.
Taste Test Time
Tempranillo wine is a low sugar variety that I often have in the house, and I recently did a taste test with my sister; comparing it to a Cabernet Sauvignon!
As they are both considered high tannin wines, we thought they’d be quite similar but the difference was significant! We found the Cabernet a lot more bitter and astringent in comparison to the tempranillo. To make the Cabernet more drinkable it required an extra tsp of sugar per glass!
Where to buy the best wine for making homemade glühwein?
My favorite place to buy wine for my mulled wine recipe is from Dry Farm. Why? Cause I never have to think or worry about drinking added sugars, sulfites or preservatives. I always get healthy, natural wine that doesn’t lead to hangovers!
My favorite new thing about Dry Farm Wines is their app. I hadn’t really used it until recently and it’s super helpful! All you have to do is take a picture of the front label and the app will give you all the details on alcohol content, sugar level, sulfite level and the tasting notes. It also gives you ideas for food pairings and there is a place to make notes and favorite the bottle if you LOVE it!
There is also an option to order the wine directly through the app by contacting Dry Farm directly!
If you haven’t tried them yet, click this link and you can get a bottle of wine for just a penny!
Best Mulled Wine Recipe
Ok, now it’s recipe time! Here is my favorite recipe for making homemade mulled wine. It’s slightly sweet and full of those winter warming spices of cinnamon, cardamon and cloves.
Best Mulled Wine
- 1 saucepan
- 750ml bottle red wine (preferably Pinot Noir, Gamay or other less tannic red)
- 1 orange sliced
- 1 lemon sliced
- 2 star anise whole
- 4 cinnamon sticks whole
- 2 cloves whole
- 2 cardamom seeds whole
- 2 allspice berries whole
- 2-3 Tbsp white sugar organic
- Place all ingredients in a saucepan and stir.
- Turn stove to medium heat.
- When the first set of bubbles appear, immediately turn the heat to low.
- Do not allow the wine to simmer or boil as this can create a bitter taste!
- Mull the mixture on low heat for 10 minutes (you can leave it mulling on the stove until it’s all served – which it our house doesn’t take too long!)
- Use a ladle to pour the mulled wine into serving glasses and garnish with slices of orange, sticks of cinnamon and star anise! Cranberries are a nice addition too to add an extra pop of color!
Quick + Easy Mulled Wine
Now I wasn’t going to add this part cause it kinda feels like cheating but I know there are A LOT of other very busy mom’s out there. If you don’t have the time or the energy to do it all from scratch I have a shortcut for you. DIY Mulled Wine Tea Bags. Yup – when you don’t want to use a whole bottle of wine or have an extra red wine from last night’s dinner these quick and easy single serving tea bags are perfect!
So there you have it! The full scoop on the best wine for mulled wine!
If you have any questions or comments leave them below and let us know if you try the recipe!