Indispensable and essential elements of the Christmas markets are hot beverages. Leading beverages are hot apple juice and mulled wine.
When it is getting colder in South Tyrol, we start thinking on a glass of mulled wine. It warms body and soul and lifts the mood in the society, it is soothingly pleasant and smells of cinnamon and cloves. The South Tyrolean Wine Road is perfect for this beverage, as wine is produced in abundance.
But what exactly is mulled wine? Actually mulled wine dates back to antiquity. The so called Conditum Paradoxum is an old Roman spiced wine. Honey was cooked with wine, pepper and mastic gum, probably bay leaves, saffron, roasted stones of dates, dates were added and it was diluted with wine. A more simple variant were the pepper wines of these days. The Hypocras has already been cousin of today’s mulled wine. It has been sweetened with honey or sugar and cinnamon, cloves and orange blossoms, often also ginger, cardamom and rose water or marjoram, nutmeg and pepper.
Today the traditional recipe for mulled wine is composed as follows: red or white wine is sweetened with sugar. The following spices are added: cinnamon, clove, lemon peel, star anise. This mixture is heated, but by no means over 80° C, as alcohol evaporates at 83° C and spices change their taste. Moreover the degradation product of sugar heated to a high temperature is considered to be carcinogenic. The lowest alcohol concentration of mulled wine should be 7%. Of course a low quality wine makes no real good mulled wine. You should rather use a high quality red wine, sweet and spice it little.
As an alternative for kids and all those who do not like alcoholic drinks, at every Christmas market you can find hot apple juice which is also characterised by cinnamon and cloves.