I’m a big fan of mulled wine at Christmas because I was in Austria at Christmastime a few years ago and I drank a lot of it there.
In theory, you would use a low quality wine to make Glühwein because steeping a bunch of other flavorings in lousy wine will ultimately make it palatable. But it stands to reason that a decent bottle of wine will make for a better Glühwein because at the end of the day the main flavor is wine. I wouldn’t waste a really good bottle of wine on it, so I opt for something on the sweet side of fruity that doesn’t cost a lot. I think Yellow Tail’s Merlot works perfectly and has the added bonus of being Australian, which is funny because people often confuse Austria with Australia (see: Austrian gift shops)
1 magnum (1.5 liters) reasonably priced fruity red wine
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup water
1 ounce brandy
1 cinnamon stick
4-6 cardamom pods
1 navel orange, washed thoroughly and sliced
Pour all of the wine into a crock pot. Set the crock pot to low. (Alternately, you could warm the wine in a large pot on your stove top under the lowest heat possible, making sure that it doesn’t boil.)
Pour the water and the sugar into a sauce pan. Stir over medium-low heat until the sugar has melted and the mixture is warm, but not boiling. Pour in the brandy without catching yourself on fire and stir until the whole thing is nice and warm and tasty.
Pour the brandy syrup into the crock pot, then add the spices and the oranges. Stir it all together, then cover the crock pot. Let the orange slices and spices steep for at least two hours, then remove them all from the drink.
Serve in small festive mugs, such as old beer stein mustard jars (pictured above). If the finished Glühwein is too strong, it’s more than acceptable to add warm water to dilute it to your tastes.