I love mulled red wine: the comforting scents of orange and cinnamon,
the bite of the cloves, the warming glow with which it takes the cold
away. Given that, I don't know why I don't reach to make it in the spring or the autumn, when the nights can be decidedly nippy. For some reason, I find that mulled wine only comes into its own in the middle of winter, when the evenings are dark as well as chilly, and I want nothing more than to curl up in front of the fire.
If you're going to treat yourself to a mug of mulled wine, make sure you choose a decent red wine. Something rich and spicy. My favourite choice is Cabernet Sauvignon, with a good Rioja a close second.
You may not always find this in other recipes, but I like a base of strong tea for my mulled wine. I find it gives a deeper flavour to the finished product. English Breakfast tea or Kenya tea make a good, full-flavoured base, but you can use any black tea that you like.
Try Earl Grey or Lady Grey tea when you're in the mood to experiment. The bergamot flavouring of the tea will come through in the mulled wine, and the effect can be quite unusual. To my mind and taste buds, Chinese teas don't make such a good base for mulled wine, but judge that for yourself.
It's always difficult to judge how many people a mixture will 'feed'! It depends very much on whom you've invited and how large the cups or glasses are that you serve the wine in. The recipe below makes just under 2 litres, but it's easily multiplied for a larger crowd.
The most important thing to remember about mulled wine is that it must not boil! Otherwise you lose all the warming effects of the wine and most of the flavour. The second most important thing is not to use an aluminium pan. There are fewer and fewer of them around anyway. Go for stainless steel or something non-stick.
Cut the orange into thick slices and place in the pan. Add the cinnamon stick, cloves and tea.
Add the water and bring to the boil. You want the spiced tea to be very strong. Strong enough, at any rate, to make your mouth feel furry.
When it's at that stage, turn the heat down and add the wine. Stir and add sugar, then heat it just enough for the sugar to dissolve.
Serve with sliced lemon and mince pies, maybe in one of these ingenious thermo glasses from Bodum. They're not just classy to look at. They keep the wine hot, while the outside of the glass stays cool enough to be held. And unless you're trying to warm your freezing cold hands on your glass or mug, that has to be a good thing!
If you're in the mood for Christmas celebrations, here are a few other pages you might find useful: