Michiganders appreciate Mitten-made microbrews while watching college football or sitting around a campfire. But it’s always nice to have a toasty alternative as the days turn cooler or to brew up batch-style and serve at tailgating parties and holiday gatherings.
Mulled wine is a seasonal delight dating back thousands of years and typically enjoyed between Halloween and Christmas. The trend has taken hold in Michigan as more and more vintners blend spiced wine varieties to sell or make mulled wine to share at tasting rooms.
“Our Suttons Bay and Old Mission tasting rooms treat all of their guests to complimentary mulled wine during the fall months,” says Kimberly Zacharias, marketing coordinator for Black Star Farms.
“It is extremely popular. People typically rave about it — the most popular being the hard apple cider and the cherry wine.”
Legend has it the Romans were the first to spice and heat wine during the second century, bringing their recipes with them as they traded in and conquered Europe. In Germany, the popular drink known as Glühwein (glowing wine) has been around since 1420 — sometimes served with a shot of rum or other liquor.
Several Michigan wineries have their own varieties of spiced wine that play on a Halloween theme. They come mixed with mulling spices, making it easy to heat and serve.
This tasty take on traditional wine is relatively easy to make at home. Mulled wine usually is made with red wine, slowly simmered with spices and sometimes sweetened. A dry red, such as a Merlot or Cabernet, works well, but a semisweet or sweet red wine — and even whites, fruit wines and hard ciders — can be used instead.
Pre-mixed packets of mulling spices are sold at grocery stores and wineries, or mix up a batch by combining orange zest, cinnamon, vanilla, clove and nutmeg. Just make sure not to go overboard.
“The packages make it a little easier to make at home because they work like a tea bag,” Zacharias says.
Similar to Glühwein is Feuerzangenbowle, which shares the same mulled wine recipe but includes a rum-soaked sugarloaf that is set on fire and allowed to drip into the wine. You can have some fun with it and put on a show for friends, says Aaron Harr at Fenn Valley Vineyards and Wine Cellar.
The Fennville winery sells its own mulled wine already bottled, and Harr recommends adding a dollop of whipped cream. It’s good with pumpkin pie and other seasonal treats.
Several Michigan wineries have their own varieties of spiced wine that play on a Halloween theme. They come mixed with mulling spices, making it easy to heat and serve. Witches Brew, produced by Leelanau Wine Cellars of Omena, is widely available in retailers across Michigan.
Sandhill Crane Vineyards releases Night of the Living Red and Revenge of the Living Red every September, but they are popular throughout the year and usually sell out, says winemaker Holly Balansag. Each year, Sandhill Crane in Jackson introduces new labels designed by Balansag’s daughter.
Throughout the fall, the wines are available for tasting and purchase at Sandhill Crane’s tasting room in Jackson, at Dexter Cider Mill, and at Michigan By The Bottle’s Royal Oak and Shelby Township tasting rooms in the Detroit area.
“You can drink them at room temperature, but they’re really nice on a cold day if you warm them up,” she says. “It’s something different. They’re definitely good in the fall — it has that kind of feel to it.”
Night of the Living Red, a semisweet spiced red wine, pairs well with oatmeal cookies or a berry pie, even something like ham cooked with cloves, she says. Revenge of the Living Red is made with hot peppers and could be served with chili.
Mulled wine is a great beverage for tailgate parties, with bratwurst and dogs on the grill — especially if there is spicy mustard in the vicinity, says Lee Lutes, winemaker and managing partner at Black Star Farms.
“Mulled wine is fall wine, and because we create ours with hard apple cider as the base, I am inclined to pair it with hearty outdoor fare,” he says. “Try it with pulled pork that’s been brined in apple cider, grilled and seasoned with a great barbecue sauce. It shouldn’t be considered only as a beverage for casual food, however, as a roast chicken with fall root vegetables would be equally delicious.”
Mulled wine recipe
This mulled wine recipe from Black Star Farms will warm your soul and make your house smell delightful.
Recommended Black Star wines include Red House White, Artisan Red and Cherry Wine, or Hard Apple Cider.
1 bottle of preferred wine with 8 ounces of water
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground clove
Dash of ground nutmeg
Combine ingredients in a saucepan or crock pot and stir well. Gently heat without boiling and don’t stir again.
Skim off the spices, garnish with an orange or cinnamon stick, serve and enjoy.
Marla R. Miller is an award-winning journalist and managing editor of Michigan BLUE.