Spiced Warm Wine, a Longtime Tradition

Mulled wine is a custom that dates back thousands of years and is traditionally savored during the Halloween and Christmas holidays.


Mulled wine is a custom that dates back thousands of years and is traditionally savored during the Halloween and Christmas holidays. Popular in Germany, the tasty beverage, called Gluhwein, can be traced back to 1420. But some historians think the Romans may have enjoyed mulled wine for a thousand years before that.

So what is mulled wine? Essentially, it is wine, typically red, that has been warmed, spiced, and sometimes sweetened in a nonreactive pot, such as a crock pot. Although it's often thought of as a holiday beverage, mulled wine is also a nice alternative for sipping during cold baseball and football games (though we do love our chilled Michigan microbrews, too!).

To make the toasty liquid treat, we suggest starting with a dry red wine, such as a Merlot or Cabernet, and adding orange zest, cinnamon sticks, vanilla, and cloves. Warm your ingredients and bring to a simmer for about 20 minutes. Keep it warm and enjoy with a fresh cinnamon stick.

As an alternative to dry red wine, Heather Price of Sandhill Crane Vineyards in Jackson suggests semisweet or sweet red wine. She also recommends the winery's Night of the Living Red, a specialty wine blended with spices, or warming up the winery's Heirloom Apple wine and Apple Mead. Both are warmed and ready for tasting at the Dexter Cider Mill, also home to Sandhill Crane Vineyards' seasonal tasting room. All wines are available for tasting and purchase at the cider mill. Handy spice packages are also available.

When adding your own spices, Price recommends using less than you may think you need. "It's a lot easier to add more (spices) if it's not strong enough than to deal with flavors that are too intense. Be especially light-handed with cloves – they can get bitter if you use too much or if they're left in the wine too long." She says that while you can toss spices directly into the wine, you may also use a tea ball or make a sack with cheesecloth and string so you don't have to scoop out the spices later.

Another spiced wine is Witches Brew, produced by Leelanau Wine Cellars of Omena. Witches Brew is a red wine blended with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and other spices. The wine is reasonably priced and readily found in grocery stores throughout Michigan. Just heat it up and serve!

Lorri Hathaway and Sharon Kegerreis are authors of the award-winning From the Vine: Exploring Michigan Wineries and The History of Michigan Wines. Learn more and get autographed books at deliciousmichigan.com.
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