How to Perfect your Mulled Wine

You know Christmas is close when you’re enjoying a warming glass of hot, fragrant mulled wine. The traditional festive beverage, usually made with red wine together with various mulling spices and raisins, can be served hot or warm. With its heady aromas of sweetness and spice, this fruity drink is synonymous with Christmas. While it is a treat that many can’t wait to enjoy, it can be difficult to perfect the right balance of flavours being a struggle for many. At Ideal Wine Company, we’ve gathered our top tips to help you make sure your mulled wine is a winner this winter.

Ideal Wine Company Mulled Wine
Here are our top tips for perfecting your mulled wine.

How do I make mulled wine?

Start with a classic recipe – there are hundreds available free online – and they’re easy to follow. While you’re looking make a note of the spices used in them. The more traditional mulling spices are cinnamon, star anise, cloves and nutmeg. But others also include allspice, bay leaves, cardamom, vanilla or ginger.

What wine should I use?

One of the most common questions for how to make mulled wine is what type of wine you should use. While there are many varieties that can work, we know that it is best to look for certain characteristics. The ideal reds to use are young, bright, fruity and unoaked. These will create a good base to build on, while still bringing a rich taste. We recommend using very fruit driven wines, as these tend to make the best mulled wines. Try using an Italian red, a Southern French or New World Merlot. A Shiraz would also be a wonderful choice.

It is also worth noting that quality is important. Always use a wine that you would enjoy drinking. However, it may be best to avoid anything too expensive, as the spices will overpower the subtlety of the wine and that would be a waste.

What flavourings should I use?

After you’ve chosen your wine, add sugar or honey to sweeten it, but be careful not to use too much as overly sweet wine can become overwhelming quickly. Then you add your spices to give it festive flavour. These should include cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, star anise and ginger. Make sure you’re careful when you put in the spices – a little at a time so that it isn’t too strong – you can’t take it back out again. Try gathering the spices in a muslin cloth to avoid small floating spices in your drink.

In addition to these classic flavours, try adding a spirit to compliment the flavours. You could add sloe gin, Cointreau or Grand Marnier for added kick.

How do I mull wine?

When you’ve added your spices, it’s now time to mull your wine. The time spent on the heat is very important. You need to infuse the wine long enough for the spices to take on the flavour, but must be careful not to boil it. This will bring out the natural bitterness of the wine that will overwhelm the entire drink. By lightly simmering it, you will emphasise the wine’s fruitiness, perfectly rounding out the flavours. We recommend serving your mulled wine comfortably warm.

Mulled wine is the perfect comforting choice for a cold December. Nothing says winter like a steaming mug or glass of festive mulled wine.

Fireside Red Wines to Try this Winter

The festive season is nearly upon us, the perfect excuse to enjoy a glass or two by the fireside. Here at Ideal Wine Company, we have our perfect picks for you to enjoy with family and friends.

With fireside wines, we’re always drawn to big earthy powerful reds. The cold weather is naturally paired with a robust red, with the body and structure to compete with hearty food. Fruitiness, weight and richness help to provide much-needed warmth.

Ideal Wine Company festive red wine
Here are some of the best fireside red wines to try this winter.

Amarone – bright and juicy

An iconic Italian wine, this typically dry red is made from the partially dried grapes of the Corvina. The blend is fermented then refermented, giving the wine rich and complex flavours. Concentrated redcurrant and cherry flavours can be detected. The brightness of these fruits pairs well with the subtle notes of clove, cocoa and spiced vanilla. This provides a structured taste, with juicy tannins providing a satisfying finish.

Ribera del Duero – smooth and luscious

This full-bodied red offers a real flavour of the Spanish countryside. The oak ageing adds notes of vanilla to the wine’s natural blackberry and herbal flavours. Its smooth and luscious structure provides a long finish. This wine is perfect for firesides or with a hearty casserole, ideal for the colder weather.

Syrah – complex and fruity

Providing plenty of character, intensity and complexity, this variety produces an inky depth of flavour. By nature, it is a big red. Its strong fruit flavours bring the rich and sturdy structure a delicious warmth. Try pairing this wine with a meat dish or even a mince pie, as the juicy fruit provides the perfect counterpoint to heavily spiced dishes. The acidity, tannins and richness create a mid-palate complexity that will be well-received by all your guests.

Bordeaux – fragrant and ripe

A great and classic choice for the festive season. This wine is a fine accompaniment to festive meat, with its fragrant and ripe taste. With a great balance and a velvet finish, it offers notes of chocolate, black cherry, spice and vanilla. An ideal combination for winter’s spiced treats.

Carignan – warm and intense

Originating from southern France, this wine is famous for its robust and intense flavour. This blend is perfectly balanced with concentrated aromas and flavours of blackcurrant, plums and brambles from the Grenache. A warm clove spice creates a rustic and smoky nuance. The full-bodied fruitiness, aroma and tannic structure create a warming wine choice. This wine is a perfect match for a charcuterie or cheese platter, making it the perfect choice to try for a festive party.

Carmenère – a subtle spiciness

This medium-bodied French wine is often noted for its smoky, spicy and earthy aromas. Its berry and mocha notes provide a richness that is rounded off with a subtle blend of spices. Working well with hearty dishes such as casseroles and chilli, this wine is the perfect winter warmer.

The Perfect Wines for This Winter Season

As the nights get colder and darker, and with more time spent inside and socializing with friends and family, it’s time to reach for a more comforting choice of wine. We tend to shift away from the rosé and stainless-fermented wines, leaning towards heavier, oak-aged varieties. The plummeting temperatures are a natural accompaniment to fuller-bodied reds and fortified wines, perfect for fireside nights and comforting, slow-cooked meals. From generous reds, for pies and stews, to warming fortified wines, Ideal Wine Company have a few tips on what to drink this winter.

Ideal Wine Company winter wine
The perfect wines to try this winter season.

Rich red wines

Unquestionably, red wines are an instinctive choice for this time of year. Big, rich red wines, usually with a higher alcohol content, are the most popular option. The major elements you’ll find in these wines are fruit, tannins and alcohol, with this interplay being key to the success of the wine. Not all big reds are the same, differing on their reliance on subtler fruit, warming spice or even strength. From this, we’ve created a list of popular wines to try:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon: with this classic choice, you’ll -get classic flavours of dark berry. These blackberry and blackcurrant notes will be complimented by chocolate and toffee. This luxuriousness is balanced out by medium tannins and a hint of spice, which make it a delicious heartening option.
  • Malbec: unsurprisingly, Malbec makes most lists of big red wines. With a smoky and rich taste, complimented by dark blackberry and blackcurrant, this dark red gives earthy and plush aromas. The structured tannins and warm oak lend itself to a bloom of spice on the finish, making it no surprise this wine is a firm favourite for winter months.
  • Rioja: another structured and fruity wine, Rioja provide a lot of character. The ripe plum and berry taste is balanced by its moderate tannins, spice and cocoa. A perfect wintery choice.

Balancing fortified wines

Making the perfect addition to winter food, fortified wines get their extra alcoholic kick through the addition of another spirit. They are great choices for balancing out the season’s sweet food, with rich flavours such as toffee, coffee, nuts and spices. Our recommendations include:

  • Amontillado Sherry: part of the anti-sweet wave, this sherry promises a subtle, bitter finish that will cleanse your palate of any overly sweet festive food. With tastes of toasted walnut, burnt sugar and bitter orange peel, this sherry is perfect as an ending to a meal or to accompany a sweet treat.
  • Rasteau Vin Doux Naturel: this sweet red wine is made of 90% Grenache and is the perfect pairing for chocolate. Through its notes of sweet raspberry, exotic spices, cocoa powder and Darjeeling tea, this perfectly matches so many winter comfort foods. From chocolate treats, such as truffles and yule logs, to blue cheese, this warming choice is always sure to be a hit.

The Perfect Wines for Autumn

Autumn is now well and truly upon us. While you may find yourself lamenting the loss of summer whites and rosés, Ideal Wine Company has plenty of recommendations to carry you through these shorter days and longer nights. This week, we bring to you five of our favourite wines for the autumn season.

Ideal Wine Company autumn wine
We’ve picked the best wines for the upcoming autumn months.

Primitivo/ Zinfandel – autumn in a bottle

These Italian and California red wines are the perfect start to your autumn collection. Both originating from the same grape, these two wines share many similarities. In their richer styles, with ABVs over 15%, the predominant flavours are jam and smoke. With notes of cinnamon, raisin, chocolate and tobacco, this wine is autumn in a bottle. With California producing an array of delicious primitivo and zinfandel wines, regions to look out for include Lodi, Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley and the Sierra Foothills.

Grenache – delicious no matter what

Arguably one of the most autumn-ready wines, Grenache is the obvious choice for this season. Character varies from region to region, with dried strawberry and herbs prominent notes in France and Italy and raspberry and clove being key in Spanish, Australian and American varieties. While there are changes between regions, the wine itself remains delicious no matter what. It’s hard to go wrong with this wine, but regions to particularly look at are Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Cannonau, Paso Robles, Columbia Valley, South Australia and Aragon.

Rhône/GSM Blends – perfect for colder nights

Following on from Grenache, Rhône and GSM (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre) blends provide a more robust take on those berry and clove notes. With additional flavours of lavender, baking spice, and green herbs, this wine is perfect for the colder nights. Great regions to look out for are Côtes du Rhône, Priorat, Central Coast California and Columbia Valley.

Carignan – perfect food pairing

As many producers are reinvigorating old vineyards, Carignan is finally starting to shed its low-quality reputation. This affordable medium-bodied red is perfect for the autumn season. It is known for its cranberry, cured meats, and baking spice flavours. As this wine pairs so well with foods synonymous with autumn, such as turkey and root vegetables, it has been called its own ingredient in seasonal dishes.  Regions to look out for include Languedoc-Roussillon, Central Chile, and Carignano del Sulcis-Sardinia. In addition, as Carignan vines are productive, try to seek out old vines where you can.

Sémillon – full-bodied flavour

Autumn isn’t just the season for red wines, this is also the time to enjoy a full-bodied white wine too. With notes of honey and almond, this Bordeaux grape is often blended with Sauvignon Blanc. In doing this, an otherwise lush and mouth-filling wine welcomes a new invigorating hint. This makes a perfect choice as a pour for the autumnal dark green vegetables, as well as pairing well with root vegetables. When looking to buy this wine, find one with some age or oak on it, and look out for wines made in the regions of Pessac-Léognan, Napa, Sonoma, South Africa, and Columbia Valley.

Foreign Office shifts to English wine

Around 52 per cent of wine served at high-end events at the British Foreign Office is now English. The government is increasing the number of wines made in England that they buy every year, as well as those served at official events. Ideal Wine Company take a look at why the shift to English wine has occurred.

Figures show that 3,052 bottles of wine were bought during the last 12 months. Of these, 1,500 are English (equivalent to 50 per cent). Ten years ago, English wines in the government’s cellar consisted of only 20 per cent.

Ideal Wine Company english wine
How is the Government shifting to English wine?

Serve British for Brexit

Miles Beale of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association is happy with this increase. He says: “We have urged government departments to ‘serve British’ and it’s great to hear that the FCO is stocking, serving and therefore supporting English wine.

“Consumers worldwide have woken up to the fact that English wine is a product of supreme quality.”

Government wine cellar
The government has had its very own wine cellar for many years. It’s looked after by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and is meant to be self-sustaining in financial terms.

Wines are generally bought young and left to mature. The annual statement for 2015 to 2016 shows that the cellar boasted 33,669 bottles of wine and spirits. The total value for the cellar’s inventory was £800,000 as at March 2016.

Selecting wine for events

Wines are selected for use at each event, depending on what kind of event it is and who is invited. The more senior the invited guests, the better the quality of wine they are served.

A private member’s bill was introduced in March by MP Nusrat Ghani to make sure that British consulates and embassies serve English wine at events. She said: “In a post-Brexit world, we must do all we can to get behind industries that show the sort of potential of our wine industry.”

Wine producer Jonica Fox, who is based in East Sussex, is also pleased with the figures. She said: “The Foreign Office is now flying the flag for us all.” As the UK is now home to more than 500 vineyards and produces millions of bottles of wine every year, it looks like this is one industry that could thrive post Brexit.