Matthew Kelly / Supercall

Entertaining
How to Make Mulled Wine Like a French Winemaker

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My first sips of Vin Chaud were out of a paper cup on a church stoop in Lyon on a blustery February day, the steam rising off of it warming my optimistically ungloved fingers. Procured from a specialty grocery store just steps away, the Vin Chaud made my exhaustion—from a sleepless, overnight bus ride from Spain to France—melt into a content coziness. I stopped fretting about my terrible French skills and my inability to access my American bank account. I let the world slip away as I sipped on this blissful French potion.

Vin Chaud, which literally translates to hot wine, is France’s version of mulled wine, like Sweden’s Glögg, Spain’s Vino Caliente or Germany’s GlĂĽhwein, though arguably better—because it is French. Vin Chaud distinguishes itself from Europe’s other warm wine beverages with its use of orange peel, for a hint of citrus, and the addition of honey and cinnamon.  Sold at bars and Christmas markets, and made by the liter in homes around France, Vin Chaud isn’t difficult to make—but you do need a recipe to nail the infusion of spices and temperature.

So we asked the experts about the best way to make Vin Chaud. Follow these rules and recipes for a perfect mugful of hot, spiced wine once the weather cools down.

Cheap Wine Is Best

Originally created as a way to add appeal to cheap wine, Vin Chaud is best made with “inexpensive, soft, herby French reds,” says Matt Deller, master of wine and chief wine officer at Wine Access. He recommends a Cotes du Rhone or something from Provence or Languedoc Roussillon, noting that bottles should cost around $15-25 and no higher.  â€śSplurging on expensive wine for Vin Chaud would be a waste,” Deller says. â€śThe spices and the boiling interfere with the subtle flavors and structure.” Keep your fancy Burgundies at 60-65 degrees and heat up the cheaper stuff.   

The Wine Doesn’t Have to Be French

You may be making a French recipe, but winemaker Youmna Asseily of Chateau Biac in Cadillac, CĂ´tes de Bordeaux, notes that the wine you use in Vin Chaud can originate from any region (though she “highly recommends” French wine, because of course). Asseily is a big fan of Merlot because it’s “so aromatic and charming— perfect for Vin Chaud.”

Watch the Heat

As anyone who’s forgotten to chill a bottle of white or left a bottle of red on a hot stove knows, temperature matters. “Cooking” your wine can make it very acidic, Asseily says, noting this is a common problem among Vin Chaud novices. To keep your Vin Chaud from offensive acidity, Deller recommends warming the wine slowly, aiming for a finished temperature of 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit. “Vin Chaud should be pleasantly warm. There’s nothing worse than tepid Vin Chaud,” Deller says. Be patient with the slow warming process. Don’t boil the wine down to jam in a rush to heat the drink.

Be Frugal with Your Spices

While some mulled wines are designed to tickle your tongue with anise and cloves, Vin Chaud should go down easily and not make you feel like you need a chaser to get all that spiciness out of your throat. To keep from over-spicing, Deller recommends using “tiny amounts of a greater variety of different spices for complexity.” If cinnamon and orange don’t quite do it for you, Deller suggests adding a sprinkle of nutmeg, cloves or ginger, and “ideally, a splash of nice Cognac.” 

Don’t Leave Any Leftovers

Good for you for not chugging down that entire bottle of  Vin Chaud in an oversized mug, but these recipes are a one and done situation. “Reheating mulled wine is not a great idea,” Deller says. Heating breaks down many of wine’s natural preservatives, so you’re going to want to drink your Vin Chaud within a few hours of making the warm drink—or, even better, within a few minutes.

Here, three fantastic recipes for Vin Chaud to make at home.

Matthew Kelly / Supercall
Created by Shaun Meglen of Austin’s PĂ©chĂ©, this take on the traditional French mulled wine, Vin Chaud, is made with ancho chile-infused brandy for a spicy kick. Between the gently heated wine, the spices and the chile, it’s capable of thawing out the most frozen of bones.

The Essentials

red wine
spices
brandy
Matthew Kelly / Supercall
This crowd-sized recipe from Asseily is made with a generous slug of Cognac, two full bottles of fruity red wine and plenty of spices (including fresh ginger). It’s easy to make and downright delicious. Proof that if you want a wine-tail done right, you have to leave it to a Frenchman.

The Essentials

red wine
Cognac
spices
Matthew Kelly / Supercall
The name of this spiced, mulled wine might have you thinking that the recipe includes honey. But it doesn’t. While it can be made with honey in place of brown sugar, Asseily, recommends sticking with the sugar—without changing the name. Is it confusing? Yes, but that makes it all the more authentically French.

The Essentials

red wine
Cognac
spices

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