Fall and winter months bring the scent of woodsmoke, dried leaves, and apples: apple cider, apple juice, apple wine, and more apple-y baked goods than can be imagined. It’s the best time of year for apples, those precious weeks when the fruit is crisp, juicy, and perfectly ripe, none of this mushy, grainy nonsense that is foisted upon us when apples are out of season.
So, of course, this is the perfect time to make spiced apple wine – a luscious, fragrant beverage that is exquisite out of the bottle and is comfort personified when it’s mulled with all sorts of lovely spices at winter’s darkest and coldest.
Spiced wine – e.g. mulled wine – is a lovely tradition, a heady beverage simmered with exotic spices that somehow enhance the flavor of the wine and take it from simple to sublime. Traditional mulled wine is made with a hearty red wine, but it’s every bit as wonderful when made with darkly golden apple wine. You can also try it with other fruit wines such as plum or peach for a unique twist on an old favorite.
Mulled wine is often made with mulling spices such as clove, star anise, and cinnamon, and perhaps a slice of fresh ginger or a pale green cardamom pod. Many people add a strip of citrus peel such as orange, mandarin, or clementine, and some add raisins for good measure, their deep grape flavor drawn out by the simmering process.
These additions will work beautifully with a spiced apple wine recipe, but you can also simplify the recipe and focus on just one or two flavors to really let the apple goodness shine. Mint tea adds a fresh, light note while ginger gives a fiery zing. Vanilla beans are a scrumptious option, giving the wine a warm, mellow taste with an almost buttery fragrance redolent of Christmas baking.
In traditional mulled wine, the spices are usually simmered in orange juice before being mixed with wine and just heated through. With apple wine, add your chosen flavoring to apple juice or apple tea instead. Simmer them together until the liquid has reduced and the flavor intensified. Stir in the apple wine and bring only to a simmer. Remove from heat, pour into heat proof glasses, and enjoy by the fire or across the table from a dear friend.
Spiced Apple Wine with Vanilla
- 1/2 cup apple juice
- 1/2 ounce mulling spices
- 1 vanilla bean, split
- 1 bottle apple wine
Pour apple juice into medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add mulling spices and vanilla bean and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.
Strain juice and return to pan.
Add apple wine and bring to simmer — don’t boil.
Remove from heat, pour into glasses, and serve immediately.
Photos courtesy of the author.