Vin chaud. Gluhwein. Vin brule. Hot wine. It’s the time of year when I think about making some, and look forward to ordering the first of the season – preferably in a cosy ski hut while it’s blizzarding outside.
At the Nederhut in Obergurgl, where I’ll be holidaying next month, it’s thick, dark, aromatic and very sticky if spilt. It comes in an earthenware mug that takes some knocking over, even with scores of merry après-skiers stamping on the tables.
Elsewhere I’ve drunk it from polystyrene cups, hot-chocolate vessels and heat-proof glasses with an impractical metal handle that burns your fingers (I think this was in Italy, where style won over substance).
Only occasionally do I find one that’s too acidic, too sweet, too bitter or lukewarm.
In Anzere, Switzerland, where I’ve skied since I was little, the tourist office hands out free hot wine on Monday nights in the village square, following a descente aux flambeaux by the ski school.
It’s one of the best I have tasted anywhere – and it’s usually white, as this is what’s grown mostly in the district.
At Central Sports, in the same village, Rene Schick, the owner, can sometimes be found handing out a very similar-tasting hot white wine to customers.
As well as being lighter than hot red wine, white has the advantage of being less messy. Which is why, when I last had a winter party, I asked Rene for his recipe. This is it:
6 litres white wine
4 litres water
3 oranges, cut into chunks, peel left on
8 cinnamon sticks
8 star anise flowers
Half a kilo of honey and/or sugar
…and a good dash of dark rum, if you like
Heat the wine and water, then add the rest of the ingredients and continue to heat for a while, stirring now and then. I kept mine on the heat for about an hour, very hot but not boiling.
You don’t need to use fancy wine – something like Muscadet, Soave or ‘table wine’ is fine (or cheap Fendant, if you’re making it in Switzerland). I used wine-box stuff, which worked fine.
Other essentials are a large saucepan and a ladel. I ladel the wine into a jug to pass around.
Polystyrene cups are a bit nasty – once I’ve used up the proper mugs I have in the house I give people large, substantial plastic glasses – not the tiny, flippy ones – then I half-fill them, so people can hold them without burning their fingers.
I can’t remember how many people this recipe ‘feeds’, but you can add more of all the ingredients once it’s flowing. None except the oranges will go off it you don’t use them up. Just don’t forget to add the corresponding amount of water as you top it up…
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