A long, long time ago, someone handed me a beautiful bottle of holiday spiced red wine for Christmas. When I received it, I didn’t think much of it, but I did think it was a nice gesture. I brought it home to Laura and we let it sit on a table for a few days. The reason I didn’t think much of it was because I had never tried it and, well, wine was wine (in my mind). At the time, I didn’t notice the word “spiced” on the label.
After a while, we decided to pop the cork in the bottle to give the wine a try. It didn’t take long to discover a brand new holiday tradition – spiced holiday wine. We loved it. The spices gave the wine such a kick that we found it irresistible. We wanted more and more and more.
The only problem was, after that year, our tradition died. We moved from the area and, unfortunately, we haven’t been able to find a comparable wine since. The winery that produces the one we drank is called Brotherhood and it’s based out on New York. Each bottle only costs $7.99, but shipping is over $23.00. If you know me, you know very well that ordering a bottle of the good stuff isn’t in the cards. Other ideas needed to be considered.
Recently, Laura and I have been hunting around the local grocery stores in an effort to find something – anything – like the spiced wine we drank so many years ago. Our search has been fruitless. Today, I decided that if we want this type of drink, we’ll have to make it ourselves. And that’s exactly what we did.
This afternoon, I did a bit of searching online to find a good recipe for making spiced holiday wine. Apparently, the internet is full of these types of things. As I browsed the recipes, I realized that many of them left out critical details, such as the best type of wine to use and how to acquire the richest flavor. Since I’m into flavor, I decided to go it alone and to make my own recipe, using the inspiration I drew from the others I found online.
From what I’ve discovered, the secret to making very rich and robust spiced wine is in the base. If you use a weak red wine, you’ll end up with a weak spiced wine. If you use a dry red wine that isn’t sweetened, you’ll end up with a spiced wine that wants to be good, but isn’t. What you need is one of two types, depending on your tastes. Either sangria or red zinfandel. If you choose the sangria, the rest will be fairly straightforward. If you choose the zinfandel, you’ll have to adjust your sweetener to taste. Personally, when I make this recipe again, I’ll use the zinfandel because it’s got some serious boldness and flavor. The primary flavors involved are jam, blueberry, black pepper, cherry, plum, boysenberry, cranberry, and licorice. To date, it’s the richest palatable red wine I’ve found and it’s definitely been my favorite of all red wines – by far. Second is Pinot noir, but really red zin takes the cake.
In the ingredient list below, I’ll include the amount of sweetener needed for both types of wine. Remember, the drink is easily tasted as it’s being heated, so you can add more sugar as necessary.
Makes: 4 Cups of Spiced Wine
1000ml (4 Cups) of Red Wine (Red Zinfandel or Red Sangria)
1/4 Cup Brandy
1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1 Teaspoon Ground Allspice
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Ground Clove
Brown Sugar (3 Tablespoons for the Sangria, 5 Tablespoons for the Zinfandel)
The recipe I’m putting forth is for a robust spiced wine. I’ve seen a few recipes floating around out there that call for a mix of red and white wines. I’m assuming those are for a lighter variation of what I’m detailing here.
Warm the Wine
Add the wine and brandy to a medium saucepan and place it over medium heat on your stove top. Let warm for about 5 minutes.
Peel & Squeeze Orange
As the wine is warming, peel the orange with a peeler, being sure to leave as much white on the orange as possible. All you want is the zest.
After that, cut the orange in half and squeeze the juice from it into the saucepan with the wine.
Add Spices, Sugar & Orange
Next, add the spices to the wine and stir well.
Add in the sugar and the orange peels as well. Stir again and let cook over medium-low, covered, for about 15-20 minutes. This time is necessary for all the flavors to come out of the ingredients and to mix into the liquid.
Once the wine is finished cooking and you’ve tasted it for flavor and made any adjustments with the sugar, pour the ingredients through a cheesecloth lined strainer into a large measuring cup. Mine is 4 cups, so you’ll either need that size or larger. The reason I say this is because if you attempt to use a bowl and then pour the wine into glasses from it, you’ll likely make a mess.
Pour Into Glasses & Enjoy
At this point, the spiced wine should be filtered and warm. Pour this wine into glasses that can handle the heat. Some folks like to use glass mugs. I let my wine cool a bit and then I poured it into regular red wine glasses. It’s up to you.
That’s it! If you try this recipe, please let me know how it turns out. Mine was delicious. It was sweet, rich and spicy. Perhaps in the future, I’ll alternate between the sangria and the zinfandel.