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Mulled wine is a spiced red wine beverage, served warm, often around the holidays. Mulled wine can be homemade or purchased pre-mixed and ready to heat up. But not many people know how to properly store mulled wine.
Unopened mulled wine should be stored at 55°F, lying flat, in a dark location with humidity of around 65% where it can be stored for years. Opened or homemade mulled wine should be drunk within 3-5 days.
It has a number of regional names (including spiced wine, wassail, glogg, and glühwein) but the idea is generally the same around the world. According to dictionary.com, the definition of mull is to “heat, sweeten, and flavor with spices for drinking, as ale or wine.” I really hate when people cite verbatim a dictionary definition but I felt it necessary in this case.
Mulled wine has been around for centuries in one way, shape, or form. The Greeks used it as a medicinal tonic as early as 300 BCE, while the Romans helped move the concoction north through Europe where it really found a home in England. Originally, mulling the wine helped mask any off-flavors, and sweetening it made a rustic, caustic base wine more approachable.
Eventually, it became part of Victorian holiday tradition (Dickens mentions the drink in A Christmas Carol) and is still enjoyed today.
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How to Store Mulled Wine
Bottled mulled wine should be treated like any bottle of red wine for storage. A cool, consistent temperature around 55°F is ideal, along with 60-70% humidity in a dark place away from heavy vibrations.
A basement or cool corner of a closet works well in a pinch for wine storage if a fancier wine fridge or cabinet is not an option.
A bottled mulled wine product should keep for at least a few years, although aging will not add to the quality of the bottle. Refrigerated and sealed in an airtight container, an opened bottle of mulled wine will stay fresh for 3-5 days.
Make sure to allow mulled wine to cool completely before storing. If storing a bottled product that you’ve warmed on the stove, return to the bottle via a funnel and refrigerate for up to three days. If the wine bottle was sealed with a cork, a rubber airtight bottle stopper is a good option for re-sealing.
If the bottle has a screw top, simply closing tightly is fine. From this point on, the goal is to keep as much extra oxygen out of the bottle as possible. Avoid vacuum sealers, as they can also suck out the wonderful aromatics that make mulled wine so appealing.
For homemade mulled wine, store in an airtight container (preferably glass, such as a quart canning jar), and again, refrigerate for up to three days.
To reheat, transfer to a small saucepot and slowly warm to a medium-low temperature. Mulled wine can also be prepared and kept warm in a slow cooker.
Pinot Squirrel Video: Easy Delicious Mulled Wine Recipe & Storage How-To
4 Tips for Mulled Wine Storage
- Follow the basic wine storage guidelines regarding temperature, humidity, light, and vibrations discussed above.
- If storing a bottled mulled wine with a cork enclosure, be sure to store the bottle horizontally to make sure the liquid stays in contact with the cork to prevent it from drying out. Bottles with a screwcap closure can be stored upright, at least for the short-term.
- Once opened, re-seal as tightly as possible and refrigerate for 3-5 days.
- While homemade mulled wine should not be stored in the long-term, a spiced simple syrup can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a month, saving a step later on.
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How Mulled Wine Ages
Most bottled mulled wines are made for early consumption and not produced with age-ability in mind. Age-worthy red wines are carefully crafted from some of the best quality grapes to create the perfect balance of acidity and tannin, producing a wine that will get better with age over years or even decades.
Mulled wine, on the other hand, is made to be enjoyed right away, usually with a base wine that is maybe not from the grapes that are the best of the best, and usually not oak-aged – the added spices and flavors are going to help mask a lower quality wine into something entirely enjoyable.
The price point on most bottles of mulled wine (often less than $20) is an indicator of the age-worthiness and quality.
While aging will not necessarily add to the quality of the wine, a bottled mulled wine product made with a decent quality base wine should be able to be stored for a few years without going over the hill, thanks to the sugar and acidity in the wine.
If the wine is fortified with spirits, that will add to the shelf-life of the bottle (much like port or sherry).
To summarize – bottled mulled wine is not meant to be an age-worthy wine and will not benefit from bottle aging, although the sugar and acidity will help protect the liquid in the bottle from going bad over the course of a couple of years.
What Do You Do with Leftovers?
Leftover mulled wine could be frozen but would probably not be used for drinking by itself once thawed. Instead, it could be used in baking or for recipes that call for simmering or braising in red wine. Try freezing leftovers in ice cube trays for easy access and portion control in the future!
Storage: Homemade vs. Store-Bought Mulled Wine
When making homemade mulled wine, there are a couple of guidelines to follow. The first step is choosing the base wine. Don’t go for something super expensive that is meant to be savored and appreciated on its own. A good quality value wine is totally appropriate for this application.
Also, the spices and other flavors in mulled wine can be quite powerful, so don’t choose a light, subtle wine like Pinot Noir.
Instead, here is the pace for a big, bold fruit-forward red (Zinfandel comes to mind as a great option, along with Petite Sirah or Malbec). While there are variations of mulled wine that use white wines, red is the most traditional choice.
Once the wine is selected, the next step is to add spices. You can make your own spice mix, or there are a lot of pre-mixed options available (often in the form of a sachet that is added to the wine during heating, kind of like a tea bag). Citrus is a very common addition, such as orange slices or a squeeze of lemon juice.
A handful of pomegranate seeds look pretty and add a nice red fruit flavor. Finally, mulled wine can be sweetened to taste with a simple syrup, honey, maple syrup, or sweetened liquor. To really up the ante, a slug of good quality brandy or cognac will make the drink extra special.
Be creative, try a number of combinations (the possibilities are endless!), and figure out what best suits your tastebuds. These basic techniques can also be applied to apple cider if there are non-drinkers among your guests.
Mulled wine is also available as a pre-mixed beverage, often found during the holiday season at the local wine shop or liquor store. The advantage of these products is their ease and simplicity – open the bottle, pour into a slow cooker or saucepan, warm up, and enjoy!
The disadvantage is the lack of customization. A number of wineries feature a special mulled wine during the holiday season as well, so check with your favorite producer to see if that is something they offer.
Best Serving Practices for Great Tasting Mulled or Spiced Wine
Mulled wine should also be stored warm. It can either be heated in a pot on the stovetop, or in a slow cooker. Heat the wine gently over low heat, allowing it to simmer but not boil.
If making mulled wine from scratch, be mindful to not over-extract the spices – letting some spices, such as clove, seep for hours will overpower the drink and can even create a slight numbing sensation when sipped.
Because it is warm, mulled wine is usually served in a mug rather than a traditional wine glass, although a stemless wine glass also is a popular choice.
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A clear mug like those used for Irish coffee is the perfect compromise between these two possibilities. Garnishing with a citrus round or a cinnamon stick is always a nice touch!
Should You Refrigerate Your Mulled Wine?
If storing mulled wine, either homemade or an open bottle, it should be refrigerated until the next use, up to three days. Unopened bottles do not need to be refrigerated prior to use.
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Can Re-Heating Revive Your Spiced Wine?
Once the wine has gone by, that’s usually it – reviving an off bottle is next to impossible. This holds true for mulled wine. Because mulled wine is still a wine product, it is susceptible to the same spoilage as other bottles of wine once opened.
Oxidation is the main cause of spoilage for an open bottle of wine and this can be accelerated by warmer temperatures, so an airtight container in the fridge is your best bet for keeping the wine as fresh as possible.
A sour smell and/or taste is typically the first sign that wine has gone ‘off.’ These signs may be slightly more difficult to detect in mulled wine with the competing spice and citrus flavors, but a discerning palate should be able to identify any flaws. Mulled wine that has gone bad should be discarded – or left simmering on the stove as a cozy air freshener!
Like any wine that’s gone by but not actually spoiled, you can also try your hand at turning it into vinegar – there are a lot of online resources with best practices for this endeavor.
A warm mug of mulled wine is a wonderful restorative in the colder months, and especially festive around the holiday season!
There are a plethora of recipes available with a quick Google search, but follow the main outline (red wine, baking spices, citrus, maybe some juice, sweetener, or brandy) and experiment to come up with the perfect version for you and your guests!
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Mulling Over Mulled Wine – Wine Mag