Mull it over before you buy wine this winter

Mulled Wine View larger image

It's that time of year again - and with Christmas markets appearing nationwide over the next week or two, many of us will be looking to buy wine suitable for mulling.

But what wine makes the best mulled wine (or gluhwein, if you prefer the European name)?

The obvious choices come from the European heartland of gluhwein country, but if you want to look beyond the continent, Australia's McGuigan Black Label range has some surprisingly suitable alternatives.

Red wines in the range include Shiraz and Merlot, and either of these can serve as a good base for mulled wine.

McGuigan Black Label Shiraz has very seasonal flavours, with chocolate and cherry aspects to it, as well as overtones of cinnamon.

McGuigan Black Label Merlot is a little lighter if you prefer a sweeter, fruitier mulled wine, with red berry and raspberry flavours complemented by hints of cinnamon and vanilla.

Both are very affordable - making them ideal if you're reluctant to buy wine that costs more, when you know you're going to mull it.

Don't be afraid to spend on a good-quality bottle though, as the finished flavours will reward you, even when it is piping hot and served in a mug.

As always, the basic recipe of mulled wine is the same: heat it in a pan with cinnamon sticks, nutmeg and just a couple of cloves.

Throw in some diced citrus fruits and some sugar or syrup to taste (we often find it's better to be generous with the syrup - you can always do this once it's poured into individual mugs, if you're not sure).

Finally, consider adding a shot of something extra, as the Europeans do - rum is a firm favourite, brandy can be extra-warming, and amaretto will complement the flavours of the spices for a marzipan-like aftertaste.

Serve with stollen cake bites for a truly satisfying winter treat that transforms your favourite red wine into a hot beverage for the coldest of winter days.