Thursday, November 24, 2011

Mulling Over Christmas Wines

"Here we come a-wassailing   
Among the leaves so green;..."

The beverage wassail is a hot, mulled punch style drink often associated with the Yuletide season. Historically, the drink was a mulled cider made with sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg and topped with slices of toast. Recipes today begin with a base of wine, fruit juice, or mulled ale, sometimes with brandy or sherry added. Apples or oranges are often added to the mix. The beverage typically served as "wassail" at modern holiday gatherings most closely resembles mulled cider, historical wassail drinks were more likely to be mulled beer or mead.  (source-Wikipedia)

To fill the wassail bowl with mulled wine, one could start with an 1869 recipe from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management:  
INGREDIENTS.- To every pint of wine allow 1 large cupful of water, sugar and spice to taste.
Mode.-In making preparations like the above, it is very difficult to give the exact proportions of ingredients like sugar and spice, as what quantity might suit one person would be to another quite distasteful. Boil the spice in the water until the flavour is extracted, then add the wine and sugar, and bring the whole to the boiling-point, when serve with strips of crisp dry toast, or with biscuits. The spices usually used for mulled wine are cloves, grated nutmeg and cinnamon or mace. Any kind of wine may be mulled, but port and claret are those usually selected for the purpose; and the latter requires a very large proportion of sugar. The vessel that the wine is boiled in must be delicately cleaned, and should be kept exclusively for the purpose. Small tin warmers may be purchased for a trifle, which are more suitable than saucepans, as, if the latter are not scrupulously clean, they spoil the wine, by imparting to it a very disagreeable flavour. These warmers should be used for no other purpose.

There is a wide selection of mulled wine recipes available.  A simple basic one can be found at:

Mulled wines have been warming people for centuries, they are wines that have been sweetened, spiced and slightly heated - offering a delightful alternative to traditional coffees, ciders and toddy’s at holiday gatherings or just on a cold winter's night.

Prep Time: 5 minutes   Cook Time: 25 minutes   Total Time: 30 minutes


  • One bottle (750 mL) of red wine (suggestions: Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Merlot)
  • One peeled and sliced orange (keep peel to add zest to taste into cooking pot)
  • 1/4 cup of brandy
  • 8-10 cloves
  • 2/3 cup honey or sugar
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp fresh or 2 tsp ground ginger (allspice can be substituted)
  • Serves 4-6


To make the perfect cup of mulled wine, combine all ingredients in either a large pot or a slow cooker. Gently warm the ingredients on low to medium heat (avoid boiling), for 20-25 minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure that the honey or sugar has completely dissolved. When the wine is steaming and the ingredients have been well blended it is ready to serve. Ladle the mulled wine into mugs (leave seasonings behind) and enjoy! 

As you can see from this recipe, a variety of red wines may be used.  Brandy and other heavier spirits are optional.   Available at Off the Vine is a copy of North Carolina's own Chatham Hill Winery's Mulled Wine receipt.

 Chatham Hill Hot Mulled Christmas Red Wine 1 bottle Chatham Hill Christmas Red Wine
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon whole allspice
6 whole cloves
1 tablespoon orange juice
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup sugar

  Heat one bottle of Chatham Hill Christmas Red Wine in a crock pot (recommended) or a  non-reactive saucepan over low to medium heat (do NOT bring to a boil).

  Stir in remaining ingredients and continue to heat gently until sugar is dissolved.

  Serve in coffee mugs and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

 Off the Vine is carrying mulling spices in muslin bags, ready to pop into whatever version of mulled wine you decide to create.  One of the easiest (and a personal favorite) is to simply toss a bag of mulling spices into the crock pot with a bottle of Weathervane Winery's Rooster Red.  This cranberry syrah and the spices make for a perfect pairing.  (You may want an extra bottle of Rooster Red to go with your leftover turkey sandwiches, another great match).

We have also gotten in a great selection of Christmas wines.  The classics from Duplin Wine Cellars; Naughty and Nice, Christmas Eve and Christmas are in stock.  From Childress Vineyards, we have Holiday Red and Holiday White (the Holiday Red would be another good selection for mulling).  From Chateau Morrisette we have available Our Dog Blue Christmas and The Black Dog Christmas.  The Black Dog Christmas would be another one recommended to mull.  Last and certainly not least are Blushing Santa and Santa's Sweetie from Weathervane.  

Stop by the shop and see what me might have available in "our" wassail bowl. 

 "Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too;

 And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year
And God send you a Happy New Year. "

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