In Europe, the festive wine is mulled wine (glühwein in German), a warm red wine simmered with various spices to combat the cold. It’s available in pubs and bars and at outdoor Christmas markets.
Winter in Hong Kong may not be that cold, but that should not deter us from enjoying this festive drink from now until Chinese New Year next February.
The main ingredient of mulled wine is red wine, but which red wine should be used? For me, I choose a red wine priced between HK$80–150 per bottle, fruit forward and not too tannic. It would be a waste to warm up expensive wine or those meant for ageing. Inexpensive wine may be thin on fruit, and the final mulled wine may be overwhelmed by spices.
I prefer to use New World wine because it has prominent fruit and the tannin is mild. Merlot and Shiraz from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa or Argentina are good choices, as is South African Pinotage. For spices, it can be a mixture of any of these: cinnamon, clove, star anise, nutmeg, cardamom, bay leaf and ginger, plus a few slices of orange and/or lemon. Then sweeten it with sugar to your liking. For convenience, high-end supermarkets and delis often sell pre-mixed mulled wine spices in sachets or teabags.
The trick to preparing mulled wine is not to allow the wine to boil. Pour the wine in a saucepan on medium heat and add the spices and citrus slices. When the wine starts to simmer, turn the heat to low and add sugar according to your preference. Serve it in a mug to enjoy on its own or with minced pie or cookies.
If you absolutely don’t want to be in the kitchen, a bottle of Ruby Reserve or Late-Bottled Vintage (LBV) port are perfect substitutes. They are fruity and sweet but not heavy, making them great with chocolate, puddings and nuts. In fact, if the winter in Hong Kong is warm (as it seems to be this year), you can always serve port slightly chilled.
Whichever wine you choose to enjoy during the festive season, share it with your family and friends.
Have a happy Christmas and a wonderful 2019!
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