Spicy red wine can be enjoyed in three ways: wines with spice notes like baking spice, a delicious recipe called “mulled wine” (red wine mixed with spices), and pairing wines with spicy foods. Keep reading to find out about the three ways to experience spicy red wine.
1) What Wines Are Described As Spicy?
Some wines are naturally described as spicy. These spicy notes add exciting flavors to augment traditional fruit flavors. Two factors drive spicy notes: the wine grape and winemaking techniques.
Spicy Wine Grapes
Look for Syrah, Grenache, Petite Syrah, Malbec or Zinfandel wine grapes in terms of grape varieties.
Geographically, I have found that older French red wines – at least 3 or 4 years old – tend to have the most interesting spicy qualities.
Spicy Winemaking Decisions
The winemaker can add spicy notes to the bottle of wine by making certain decisions. For example, aging the wine in oak barrels can add some spicy notes.
2) What Do “Spice Notes” In Wine Taste Like?
The term “spicy notes” is a standard description you will see in wine tasting journals and publications. However, we can be more specific. To become the resident wine expert in your home, look for the following descriptions from wine reviews in Wine Enthusiast and take the Become A Great Wine Taster course..
- Anise. Look for this spicy note in Zinfandel from California and Shiraz from the Barossa Valley in Australia. Most people associate the taste of Anise with licorice.
- Baking Spice. You will probably see people refer to “baking spice” in wine tasting notes. This typically means cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom. Examples of spicy red wine with baking spice qualities include Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Sangiovese. In white wines, baking spice flavour is found in Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer from Alsace.
- Mint. While less common, you can find red wines with mint. Specifically, look for Syrah from the Rhone Valley of France and the Languedoc-Roussillon region (here’s a review of a wine from the Languedoc-Roussillon – lequilbre wine review).
- Pepper. Many people notice a black pepper note in Australian Shiraz and Syrah from the northern Rhone.
3) Recipes for Spicy Red Wine (Mulled Wine)
Mulled wine – a warm red wine with spices added – is a popular drink around Christmas. Before you start learning how to make these holiday recipes, you need to know how to shop for the essential recipe – a bottle of quality red wine.
Best Red Wines For Mulled Wine
Assuming you are making mulled wine for a special occasion, avoid bad wine. Price is part of the story (i.e., stay away from “affordable wines” under $20). In addition, stay away from wines that have additional spices added in because the excessive spice can mask bad wine.
Step 1. Set your wine budget for at least $20 per bottle.
Step 2. In terms of wine variety, look for Grenache, Zinfandel, or Merlot.
Step 3. Tannins are your friend! Look for wine reviews that specially mention relatively high tannins in the wine.
Step 4. Imagine you have leftover wine after making your delicious recipe at your dinner party. Would you still want to drink the wine? If so, you are good to go.
Holiday Recipes For Mulled Wine
Depending on how much time and effort you’re willing to put in, there are two ways to make spicy mulled wine for the holidays.
Traditional Mulled Wine Recipe
The following recipe takes some time and effort to create the traditional experience.
- Wine. The core ingredient! To serve a dozen people, you will need two bottles.
- Oranges. Cut up some orange slices and put them in the mix.
- Fruit. Blackberries or blueberries.
- Spices. Anise, cloves, and ground cinnamon are good choices.
- Sweetener. Some people like to add brown sugar or honey (optional)
When you serve a glass, there is one last step. Open your container of cinnamon sticks and put one in the glass. For more detailed directions, check out the Hot Spiced Christmas Wine on Allrecipes.
The Minimalist Mulled Wine Recipe
- Wine. Start with a bottle of decent red wine (have a favorite? Consider getting more once you know the answer to how many bottles of wine are in a case).
- Spices. Pick one or two spices to add – make sure one of them is cinnamon,
- Orange Slices. Add this optional garnish to the drink when serving.
The cooking direction is simple: cook on a stove with medium high heat for about an hour. You want the mixture to be heated but not boiling.
After using these receipts, you might end up with some leftover wine. In that case, you need to know your options. Find out three ways to stop wine going bad. You don’t have to finish off the wine right away!
4) Pairing Wine With Spicy Food
If you enjoy Asian spices as much as I do, there are a few wine pairing options that work.
- Sparkling Wine. Whether you like Champagne or prefer Champagne alternatives, a bottle of sparkling wine is a good pairing with spicy foods. Now you have a great idea for New Year’s Eve: order sparkling wine to go with your spicy Thai or Indian food.
- Pinot Noir. Pouring Pinot Noir into your wine glasses is a brilliant pairing for many spicy foods.
- Riesling. Your best bet is to choose an off-dry Riesling. The sweetness in the wine goes well with the spices.
- Gamay. A bottle of Gamay is a good choice if you are planning to enjoy a dish with a spicy vindaloo sauce.
Three More Ways To Enjoy Wine During The Holidays
The holiday season is a perfect time to explore wine further. There are a few different ways to go.
1) Add a chocolate and wine pairing to your meal.
You might make a meal more memorable by adding a dark cholate dessert course. In that case, consider using these wine chocolate pairing tips.
2) Enjoy a wine movie on Netflix
There are several fun wine movies on Netflix, whether you are looking for a comedy like “Sideways” or a documentary like “Somm.” For a complete guide, check out this guide: Best Wine Movies On Netflix: 10 Must-See Films.
3) Explore the wine world through fiction
If you prefer to read by yourself at the end of a long day, you might like this guide to wine fiction.