A spooky little wine

Wine reviews – By Michael Wolsey

I am not a fan of mulled wine. I like the idea of it spreading warmth on a winter’s day and I like the smell of the fruit and spices but the drink is always disappointing and has ruined many a Christmas party. I am expecting a nice glass of chilled chablis but end up clutching a plastic cup of warm sweet water. Mulled wine often puts in an appearance at Halloween parties; fair enough – it’s pretty spooky. Mulling dates back to the Middle Ages. Felicity Cloake, a journalist with The Guardian in London, tried out a recipe from 1390. She ground together cinnamon, ginger, galangal, cloves, long pepper, nutmeg, marjoram, cardamom, grains of paradise (?) and Indian root, slung in some cheap French red and sugar and heated it all. Her verdict: “It tastes like something that might have been used to ward off the plague.” Jamie Oliver has a recipe that kicks off with a syrup base, made by putting sugar in a large pan along with some clementine juice and peel, lemon and lime peel, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaves, nutmeg and vanilla, and then pouring in enough red wine to just cover it all. This is then gently heated until the sugar has dissolved, at which point the cook cranks up the heat and keeps the mixture at boiling point until it becomes a thick syrup. He then pours in the rest of the wine and reheats. Seems like an awfully difficult way of spoiling wine. I prefer Delia Smith’s simple process: heat a couple of bottles of red wine with six tablespoons of honey, an orange studded with cloves, a few slices of orange and lemon, some ground ginger and a cinnamon stick, and allow to simmer gently for 20 minutes before serving.