I first discovered "le vin chaud" (hot wine) as a young teenager in Northern France. During the holiday season, I could buy a hot and steamy cup of the delicious elixir and let it warm me from the inside out. Later, as a college student in the Alps, I could often be found with a cup of vin chaud in one hand and a newspaper cone full of roasted chestnuts in the other. Oh, what a delightful treat!
Did you know that mulled wine has its origins in Ancient Greece? It is believed that Hippocrates invented it as a type of tonic that was made from heating either white or red wine with honey. Spices were added to the recipe sometime in the 12th or 13th century as the beverage gained in popularity across Europe. However, it wasn't until the late 1800's that this drink became associated with Christmas and the holiday season as German merchants in the seasonal Christmas markets began serving their versions of this yummy libation to chilled customers. The tradition of combining local wines, sugar and spices into a warm treat eventually found its way to France as "le vin à la française" when cinnamon was added to the mixture. Interesting side note, while most recipes call for a young and sweeter red wine (maybe some leftover Beaujolais Nouveau, anyone??) the recipe from Alsace includes Reisling or even Pinot Blanc! We prefer the traditional red wine version of the beverage served on those especially cold evenings.
Here's a fun recipe to snuggle up with on a cold winter's night:
Hot Wine / Mulled Wine*:
1/4 cup Sugar
1 1/2 cups Boiling Water
Peel of 1/2 Lemon
1 3" Cinnamon Stick
5 Whole Cloves
1/2 tsp. Ground Allspice
1 cup Apple Juice
1 bottle of Red Wine, preferably a Burgundian wine, but you could use a leftover from this year's Beaujolais Nouveau!
1/2 tsp. Nutmeg - to sprinkle on top
Using a large saucepan, dissolve sugar in the water, then add the next five ingredients and cook on high for 15 minutes. Once well-dissolved, strain mixture and return to pan. Add the wine and simmer over low heat. Serve in warmed mugs and sprinkle with nutmeg. Yum!
*Recipe from Mr. Boston Official Bartender's and Party Guide
**More information can be found in Vin Chaud de Wikipedia