Mulling Over Wine


Hi Vino Joe,

With the holiday season in full swing and living in the now-chilly northeast US, I want to make mulled wine. There are a ton of recipes on the internet, and they all have “red wine” (or “dry red wine”) as the main ingredient, but none of the recipes say WHICH red wine to use. Please help!

— Millie Mullingan.

wine answer pink

Hi Millie, thank you for this timely, GREAT question. And as with many questions regarding the subjective nature of wine … it depends on your palate.

Some experts suggest using a big, bold wine to stand up to the other ingredients but I think something like, for example, a Cabernet Sauvignon could have too much tannin and/or acidity that can put the final flavor out of balance. Of course, if you like a really dry mulled wine then go with a Cab; if you like a little “twang” of acidity then go ahead and mull a high-acid red like a Chianti.

Just as you might put some thought into pairing and balancing the elements of a dish with a wine, you can approach mulling similarly. Consider the other ingredients, particularly the spices, and meld them with an appropriate wine. Generally speaking, you won’t go wrong using a relatively dry, but fruity (or “fruit-forward”) wine for mulling. And, if the recipe you choose calls for a dose of brandy or other liquor, you’ll probably want to choose a wine that’s low in alcohol (unless, of course, you have a specific goal in mind). Finally, you don’t need to break the bank on a bottle — the wonderful flavors and subtle nuances of an expensive wine will be overshadowed by the other ingredients and the cooking process.

With all that in mind, my favorite choices for mulling are fruity, low-alcohol Beaujolais; a fruit-forward, low-tannin Merlot; a juicy Argentinean Malbec; or, if you’re adding little or no other alcohol (such as brandy or Port), Zinfandel. See below for specific recommendations, and, keep an eye here on Wine365 — rumor has it that the staff is feverishly testing numerous mulled wine recipes to warm your palate this holiday season!

Vino Joe's Recommended Wines For Mulling

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Founder of popular wine blogs Wine Dictator and Wine Weekly and host of Inside Wine Podcast, Joe's career in the wine industry spans four decades. He is a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) and holds Level 2 certification from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET).

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