No beverage feels more warm or cozy than a cup of mulled wine on a winter’s day. Mulled wine is a rich, spiced alcoholic beverage that takes a classic red wine base and elevates it with seasonal flavors.
Mulled wine, or spiced wine, is an old beverage from many cultures throughout history. With that in mind, it is challenging to choose the perfect bottle of red for making mulled wine.
After several winter seasons of experimenting, I’ve cultivated a great love of spiced wine and a list of the best wine varieties for making it.
Whether you prefer mulled wine with sweet undertones, or something rich and velvety, there’s a wine on this list that will help you brew the perfect batch of warm, wintery goodness.
If you’re interested in advancing your cold weather beverage skills, read on to learn more about the best type of wine for mulled wine.
The key to a quality wine for mulled wine is finding a full-bodied red that can handle all the complex flavors you’ll be adding to it.
In that regard, Shiraz is an excellent mulled wine option. Originally associated with the city of Shiraz in Iran, today Shiraz wine is considered a classic dark-skinned grape wine.
A Shiraz wine is a medium full-bodied wine, meaning that it has lots of rich flavors without feeling too heavy or thick.
Shiraz wine also usually has a sweet, juicy taste that goes well with the citrus and spice flavors of mulled wine.
Like Shiraz, Zinfandel wine is a rich red wine that can support the flavors of mulled wine.
This black-skinned wine grape is indigenous to Croatia but is most commonly grown in California vineyards in the United States.
Zinfandel wine has a sweet, full flavor. Some of the key tasting notes of Zinfandel include cherry, plum, jam, and blueberry.
These flavors can vary depending on the ripeness of the Zinfandel grapes used by the vineyard, so I suggest checking the info on the label before buying the bottle.
I recommend Zinfandel for anyone who enjoys classic mulled wine, as the rich fruit flavors are the ideal partner to the traditional mulled wine spice and citrus blend.
For a fancy, elevated version of mulled wine, consider using Beaujolais wine.
Unlike Zinfandel and Shiraz, Beaujolais is an extremely light red wine. This French AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) wine is guaranteed to be high quality and an excellent addition to your mulled wine recipe.
Beaujolais is made with Gamay grapes, which are thin-skinned grapes that create a light wine low in tannins.
Sometimes called a “white” red wine, Beaujolais brings a fruity but not overly sweet taste to mulled wine.
Although not the most traditional mulled wine style, I like using Beaujolais when making a batch of mulled wine for a crowd that lighter, refreshing beverages.
I always love a good Malbec wine when I need an affordable dark wine, and that certainly includes making spiced wine.
Malbec wine is rich in tannins and has lots of juicy flavors, which are two traits that work perfectly for a mulled wine recipe.
Malbec is traditionally a French wine grape, but contemporary wine culture associates this variety with Argentine vineyards, as the wine has thrived in that region.
French Malbec wine can have a leathery taste with hints of black pepper, which when used in mulled wine can make for a mature, subtle flavor.
On the other hand, Argentine Malbecs are much more fruit-forward, which is what I usually recommend for classic mulled wine ingredients.
Bordeaux wine refers to any wine variety made in the French city of Bordeaux, and while a white Bordeaux can be delicious, for mulled wine, I like a nice red Bordeaux.
Most red Bordeaux wines are a blend of several different grape varieties, creating a unique and tasty flavor.
Red Bordeaux usually has a medium or full body with tasting notes of black currant, plums, and earthy minerals.
When using it in mulled wine, I enjoy the way Bordeaux’s complexity brings out the subtleties of the spiced wine flavors.
Merlot grapes are often used in red Bordeaux blends, but on their own, they make a bottle of a fantastic varietal wine.
Merlot has the full body and high tannin levels that I like to use for mulled wine, but it also has juicy flavors and a subtle chocolate finish that can take a spiced wine to the next level.
Merlot is often recommended for a variety of purposes, mainly because it pairs well with almost any kind of dish or flavor palate.
Some wine enthusiasts may avoid Merlot due to its reputation for being too soft and overly sweet, but this stereotypically “low brow” wine works as a simple and tasty base for the strong spices of mulled wine.
Tempranillo is a Spanish red wine with a full-bodied flavor.
This wine has hints of cherry, tomato, and plum, as well as notes of vanilla and tobacco.
Tempranillo has a moderate amount of tannins, making it a happy compromise for people who love tannins and those with sensitivities.
This is a great wine if you want a Latin spin on your mulled wine recipe. Tempranillo can support lots of strong flavors—it’s often paired with heavy meals like barbecue or pasta—so I like using it when I’m experimenting with new mulled wine flavorings and spice blends.
While this list covers the best type of wine for mulled wine, this is just a starting point for experimenting with the many red wine varieties available. As long as a bottle of red wine is full-bodied enough to support added flavors, you can try it out the next time you make spiced wine.
If you are interested in wine in general, check out this article on sweet red wines.
Did I leave out one of your favorite wines for mulled wine? Let me know and I’ll be sure to check it out!