Hot, mulled wine or “vin chaud” in French, dates back centuries to Roman times. And, in France, it’s become a traditional Christmas and winter warmer.
You’ll find it served at Christmas markets and restaurants all over France. But, in Alsace in northeastern France, it’s particularly delicious. Here, vin chaud being made in huge kettles at the famous open-air Christmas Markets. People drink it while wandering around the market to stay warm. Or enjoy it nibbling the some of the traditional market fare such as spiced Christmas cookies called bredele, Flammekueche (Tarte Flambée), local spiced sausages or even crepes. People also brew their own vin chaud at home where it’s often served on its own to warm up on a chilly afternoon or after dinner, or along with a spiced biscuit.
There are countless variations for vin chaud recipes. The type of wine and spices differ depending on region, family and chef. Alsace is heavily influenced by the neighboring region of Germany, so its mulled wines tend to be similar to German glühweins. They’re heavily spiced and sweetened with cloves, star anise, cinnamon, oranges, honey and sometimes a shot of liqueur like Cognac.
For a simple recipe, heat half a botle of red wine in a pan. Add a cinnamon stick, star anise, 2 cloves and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. Simmer for 6 minutes without boiling. Serve hot, decorated with slices of orange or lemon (or both). For a truly special recipe that outranks all the rest in the taste stakes, Vin Chaud with Pinot Noir will make you happy!
In Normandy and Brittany, a popular option is to replace the wine with cider. It’s a lighter drink but no less delicious! If this takes your fancy, it’s very simple to make.
Heat 75cl (0.75l) in a pan and grate in the rind from an untreated orange and lemon. Meanwhile, keep the orange to cut into slices to add to the drink. When the cider reaches simmering point, add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, 2 cloves, a star anise and cinnamon stick. Leave to simmer for 10 minutes covered. Let the juice cool a little then stir in the honey. Enjoy!
How to make spiced mulled pears
Guide to pairing wines with Christmas dishes