Spice it up with mulled wine 

Traditional winter drink brings joy and artificial warmth to the holiday season

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The weather outside is frightful, but inside the mulled wine is delightful.

There is little doubt that warm, spiced wine is a perfect way to wait out winter storms and long stretches of overcast conditions.

Sommeliers Franz Zimmermann and Michael Kompass both agree that warmed up wine is a great winter holiday drink, and something fun to serve during the Christmas holidays.

There are a million recipes out there for mulled wine with most calling for cloves, grated nutmeg and cinnamon or mace. Port, a fortified Portuguese wine is also sometimes used, or Claret, which comes from the Bordeaux region of France.

Kompass prefers red wine on the occasions when he warms up a pot of holiday cheer. Some people reach for white wine but red is a far more popular option. He likes to flavour his warm wine with a little apple cider.

"It does add a touch of sweetness and a touch of fruit," says Kompass from the Blackcomb Liquor Store.

In addition to adding apple cider, Kompass says he likes to flavour his mulled wine with brandy as well to give it a little extra punch.

"Once it gets cooked the spirit just gives it a bit of alcohol and gives it a bit more of a warming affect," says Kompass.

He likes to stick cloves into an apple and drop the apple into the pot of liquid while it is warming up. The apple and clove flavour eases into the liquid through the warming process.

Zimmermann, a sommelier with German heritage, says the history of mulled wine goes way back to the days when wine production was far less regulated than it is today.

"The wine was just not good enough," says Zimmermann from the Grill Room at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. "It was really bad red wine that they used. You could not drink it without putting ingredients into it — almost like the Greeks did back in the day when they added honey and cloves to wine to make it taste better."

Zimmerman suggests monitoring the heating process carefully to ensure the wine doesn't boil. He points out the alcohol is volatile and if the drink boils the alcohol will boil out to leave behind alcohol-free wine that tastes funny.

"It gives you a nice and warm rush for a few hours then a bad hangover the next day," says Zimmermann of the mulled wine common at every German Christmas fair.

While he notes that each fair has its own unique mulled wine recipe, he says the basic ingredients are relatively universal.

Many mulled wine recipes suggest using a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz as the base ingredient. Whatever goes into the mix, keep in mind that a dark disaster may result if the weather breaks to bring blue sky and white powder in the morning to a body clouded by too much mulled red wine the night before.

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