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. “Splurging on expensive wine for Vin Chaud would be a waste,” Deller says. “The 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, Côtes 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.