Glühwein, rich, red wine steeped for hours with fresh herbs and spices, is such an amazing German tradition. This warm holiday beverage is held in the mitten-clad hands of everyone trudging around the all-too popular Christmas markets--as the downfall of snow chills them to the bone, the delicious, hot wine warms them to their very core. In the United States, this tradition is carried out in the form of mulled wine. And while we don't drink wine in public places in quite the same way the Germans do, and we don't experience that same bone-chilling frost here in Southern California, we can all appreciate a warm wine beverage packed with comforting flavors.
The menu here at Seal Beach Winery is expansive and full of possibilities for mulled wine. With each wine having its own unique flavors and nuances, it only follows suit that these flavors should be built upon with specially catered herbs and spices.
Pinot Noir- Currently we carry two Pinot Noirs at the winery, and while they do have unique flavor profiles, they can be regarded similarly when heating them up and making them spicy. Both of these wonderfully fruity and earthy wines pair well with sweet, brown baking spices like brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves. Incorporating brown sugar as well as standard, white sugar into a mulled wine recipe with Pinot Noir will tone down the earthy components of the wine, leaving a blast of fruit and heartwarming spice behind. My recipe would look something like this:
Grenache- Our Grenaches are smoky and spicy, and mulling wine with them certainly imparts these flavors into the end result. For this wine, consider making a punch with some Ginger Ale to give it a crisp effervesence that complements the smoky flavors
Syrah- Right now, Seal Beach Winery is featuring three Syrahs. While all of these can be used for mulled wine, I suggest the 2012 Syrah that was just released for mulling, as its flavors of vanilla and cedar will really shine alongside the right spices. For this wine, I would stick with the essential cinnamon and clove combo, but add in some star anise and fennel to really highlight the licorice flavors and some lemon to bring brightness to the drink.
Cabernet Franc- As we learned at the Popcorn Pairing Party, Seal Beach Winery's Cab Franc meets its perfect pair in Star Anise and Vanilla Sugar. These ingredients must be the star of the show in a Cab Franc based mulled wine.
Sangiovese- This wine is actually fairly tannic with intense flavors of dried cranberries--perfect for the holidays and spiced wine alike. Accentuate the cranberry flavors with a traditional pairing, oranges!
Zinfandel- Our Zinfandel is definitely a favorite among our members, and for good reason. This luscious wine is filled with so many flavors, it could complement just about anything. However, for this particular recipe, we're going to match it with everyone's favorite comfort drink--hot chocolate!
Chardonnay- Surprise! You can make mulled wine with whites as well. Our 2013 Old Vine Chardonnay is the perfect balance of oakiness and crispness for mulling wine. With this, accentuate the light flavors with citrus and ginger, rather than heavy sugars and cinnamon.
So there you have it, a wide array of combinations to try heating up this holiday season. Remember, for each wine, let the herbs simmer slowly over time to avoid burning the sugars and overcooking the wine. Try heating on a stove on low for a few hours, or even dump the ingredients into a crock pot and let the spices sizzle and flavors develop. And, as always, try to stay warm this winter season!