Mulled Wine: Christmas in a Glass

mulled wine stir stickBy Tania Thomas

There is nothing that welcomes your guests and says Christmas like soul-warming aromas of slowly simmering red wine with sliced oranges and mulling spices; cinnamon sticks, nutmeg and cloves, star anise, cardamom, and ginger.

Considered as a traditional holiday treat in the Old World countries, mulled wine has been warming people’s hearts for centuries.

Very first mentions date back to the Roman times. Apparently, Cesar liked his wine heated and spiked with herbs and exotic spices.

Mulled wine become especially popular during the Middle Ages warming up long winter evenings, especially around Christmas time.

Mulled WineMixing it with honey and spices greatly improved wine’s appeal and proved much healthier choice than drinking water.

In Victorian times, the recipe for mulled wine further evolved to keep up with the fashions of the era, and was even mentioned by Charles Dickens in his novels.

Usually made with red wine, such as Port, claret and even Calvados, mulled wine is a sure crowd-pleaser and a warm welcome to you guests.

It is easy to make and depending on your choice of wine, it can be relatively inexpensive to make in large quantities. My favourite choice are Portuguese reds, vinified with port grapes at the fraction of the price you would pay for the actual Port.

So what is the best recipe? The secret is that there is no secret. Just pick your favourite wine and spices and taste and experiment until your signature “house style” emerges.

You can also add brandy to fortify the drink and enhance its flavor. The most important tip to remember is not to have it reach the boiling point, as it would burn alcohol off. Gently simmering is all that’s required.

After twenty minutes of gentle simmer, your very own mulled wine is ready. Serve it in a small glass mug and garnish with star anise and a fresh orange slice studded with cloves for a beautiful presentation and a fresh splash of citrus.




Mrs. Beachley’s Mulled Wine
California, United States





Mulled wine steeping is popular in many cultures. Christmas tradition in Great Britain includes many variations of mulled wine, were spices are boiled in a sugar syrup for a few minutes before red wine is added, heated, and served.

Cozy choice of an après-ski treat, mulled wine is a favourite drink of choice in ski huts across Europe. German and Austrian Glühwein or “glow-wine”, named after the hot irons once used for its mulling, is popular in German-speaking countries and also in French region of Alsace, right across the border.

The German tradition dates back to 1420 with German noble families growing first Riesling grapes, which can also be used in Glühwein.

mulled wine cinnamon stickScandinavian Glögg is also a long-standing tradition of mulled wine enjoyment in the Nordic countries of Norwegian, Denmark, Sweden and Iceland with addition of stronger spirits such as Vodka and Akvavit.

French “vin chaud” and Italian vin brulé are usually mixture of red wine, honey, cinnamon, and orange, made with just a touch of sweetness. A favourite winter drink in the ski resorts across mighty Alps.

Here in Canada we have many variations as well. For a taste, try Quebecois “Caribou”, made with heated red wine, maple syrup and hard liquor.

A perfect choice to warm up your frosty fingers during our Canadian Winter Festivals. Pair it with piping-hot cinnamon beaver-tail for an ultimate Canadian winter experience.


Copy of June 2012 039Tania Thomas, Certified Specialist of Wine

As a child, Tania helped her parents pick grapes in her family’s Croatian vineyards, and then later with winemaking. As an adult, she lived abroad in London, England, Milan and Venice, Italy, and explored the food and wine cultures while traveling throughout Europe.

While living in Toronto, Tania completed studies with the International Sommelier Guild (ISG). She continued her wine education with the prestigious, internationally-recognized Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET), based in London, England. In 2007, she achieved the WSET Level 3, Advanced Certificate in Wine and Spirits.

In 2013, Tania was awarded with a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) designation by The Society of Wine Educators, based in Washington, DC. She is currently studying for the organization’s Certified Wine Educator designation.

Tania also offers sommelier services and tutored wine tastings, consulting and wine tastings via and is a regular columnist with as well as the wine expert for Rogers Daytime Television.



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