I had mulled wine at a French restaurant I went to for dinner last night, and it was a very dry wine - which was interesting, since there was definitely added sugar and the spices are typically something I think of as paired with sweeter flavors. It resulted in an odd (but not unpleasant) mixture of flavors.

I know that mulled wine / glühwein / glögg varies depending on region and culture, but is there a class of red wine that is typically used to make mulled wine? Or does it depend entirely on personal preference or what's available?

  • I'm leaving this question without an accepted answer because the two are polar opposite points of view, and I don't find one of them more compelling than the other.
    – Laura
    Mar 6, 2012 at 22:04
  • Both opposites can be found in german Glühwein culture too - if you go to a german Weihnachtsmarkt, there will be booths with "Winzerglühwein" - "Vintner's mulled wine" that are made from a known wine type, and there will be a lot of cheap and deliciously nasty kinds - we wouldn't want to miss either of these - probably because we take some satisfaction at times in not wasting premium wine if we perfectly well know we want to get potted ;) Nov 15, 2015 at 11:54

2 Answers 2


Speaking from personal experience mulling wine many times:

In general, you want a dry or semidry red, of innocuous flavor profile. You do not want anything with strong tannic, acidic, alcoholic, brett or sweet flavors; these will become concentrated while mulling and quite unpleasant. Your ideal mulling wine is an inexpensive, inoffensive, young merlot, burgundy, petite syrah, tempranillo, beaujolais, or other "middle-of-the-road" wine, maybe slightly on the sweet side. Cabernet sauvignon, chianti, rioja, and similar wines tend to be poor choices, although of course it depends on the individual wine. Also, look out for high-sulfite-added wine which also can develop off flavors.

I'll contradict Sarge here and say that you do not want a wine which is turning towards vinegar; you'll end up with a very sour crock pot full of mulled vinegar. However, mulling is an excellent thing to do with wines which have been oxidized (but not vinegared) and lost a lot of their flavor, either through being open too long or too long on the shelf. Certainly if you spend more than $9 a bottle in the USA for wine for mulling, you've made a mistake.

This is very similar to how you would choose a sangria wine. The main difference is that for sangria you want bright and acidic flavors, whereas for mulled wine you want heavier, darker flavors.


Traditionally, (and by that I mean Western tradition, mainly French), mulled wine was made to save wine that was close to or already had turn toword the vinegar. In one of my old cookbooks (a collection of recipes from the 13th though 17th century) the mulled wine is recommended to be made with the leavings of multiple bottles and bottom of the cask. As such, it doesn't really matter from that stand point.

However, chosing a wine that has a lot of bold flavors in it will allow you to use a more aggressive spice profile than one that doesn't. One of my favorite things to do when mulling wine is find a wine that I found to be "one-note" and add spices to contrast that. I also tend to mull wine that I otherwise dislike (Its a great way to get rid of those bottles that you get over the holidays where people chose on price and not on the bottle). I have also found that since you are heating it, dryer wines will devolp a lot of sweetness and sweet wines can become cloying, so I would steer clear of dessert wines. (Although I have a friend that makes a "sweet and spicy" mulled wine that is always great, so that rule might be ignorable.)

Really, I think adding spices that complement the wine you are using is the best way to proceed. If you taste it and you think "a little of X would make this perfect" it should be a prime canidate.

  • Judging by taste, this must certainly be true of most glühwein I've had at Christmas markets, but isn't something I'd want to replicate when making it myself.
    – vwiggins
    Jan 9, 2012 at 12:19

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