Vin Chaud: Mulled Wine Recipe

by Beth Shepherd
( October 8th, 2014 )

A blustery day in Paris, chilly even. Ominous clouds loom. People begin to put on their jackets and open parapluie to guard against the rain. Your mood feels a bit gray.

Then you remember. You’re in PARIS, nestled under cover at a sidewalk cafe in the Tuileries. Autumn leaves dress the surroundings in rich hues of red and gold. You feel as though you are in La Musique aux Tuiliereis, Manet’s famous painting. You’re dining on French cheese, a baguette and a fresh pear. And…you’re drinking Vin Chaud. mulled wine, the perfect accompagnement for a day just like this. In fact, Vin Chaud almost makes you wish for a day like this.

Tuileries on a gray day

Mulled means to heat, sweeten, and flavor with spices for drinking, as ale or wine. Mulled wine is a global tradition with myriad recipe permutations. Glögg (Sweden), Glühwein (German), Vin Brulé (Italian), Negus (English), Navegado (Spanish), Forralt Bor (Hungarian), Wassail (also English)… and Vin Chaud (France). The common denominator is wine, red or white, sometimes fortified (adding a distilled spirit such as brandy), sometimes not, infused with spices and served warm.

The process of mulling wine goes back centuries. Hippocras, a drink made from wine mixed with sugar and spices, usually including cinnamon, and possibly heated, was a spiced wine popular in the Roman Empire, as seen in the writings of Pliny the Elder and Apicius. After steeping the spices in the sweetened wine for a day, the spices are strained out through a conical cloth filter bag called a manicum hippocraticum or Hippocratic sleeve (originally devised by the 5th century BC Greek physician Hippocrates to filter water). Apparently, the recipe for hippocras was brought back to Europe from the Orient, following the crusades. The drink became extremely popular and was regarded as having various medicinal or even aphrodiasiac properties.

Mulled wine and cheese in Paris

You can use any fruity, though not overly sweet, red wine (or white if you’re not a red wine drinker) to make Vin Chaud. I suggest going light on the tannins. The wine doesn’t need to be expensive, just something you find drinkable. Your ideal mulling wine is an inexpensive burgundy, petite syrah, tempranillo, beaujolais, malbec or other “middle-of-the-road” red. If you’re going white, try an aromatic white wine like Riesling, Muscat (moscato) or Chenin Blanc. The recipe, below, also features a finishing splash of cognac. You could substitute any eau de vie, port or brandy, but Cognac seemed appropriate since I’m writing about a drink I enjoyed in Paris.

Mulled wine vin chaud

Vin Chaud: Mulled Wine Recipe


  • 1 bottle fruity red wine

  • 1/4 cup honey or 4 tablespoons granulated sugar

  • 5 black peppercorns or a pinch of ground pepper

  • 2 cardamom pods

  • 1 star anise

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 5 whole cloves

  • 1/3 cup Cognac (or another eau de vie, port or brandy of your choice)—optional

  • 1 piece of orange zest (white pith removed), a few inches long, per glass

Note: There are myriad combinations of spices for mulled wine. Some people like to add a cinnamon stick or two, and others prefer a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg. If you want less of a zing, you could omit the peppercorn. And, while I have access to fresh bay leaves, you could use dry or forgo.

How to:

Use a nonreactive cooking pot or saucepan. Add spices and honey (or sugar) and simmer. Do not allow to boil. Turn off the stove and let the wine simmer 10-15 minutes. Reheat and, just before serving, add the cognac (or eau de vie). If you prefer your mulled wine with a tad less alcoholic punch, you can omit the cognac altogether, or add a tablespoon or two to the glass or mug and ladle the mulled wine over it. Strain wine into heat-proof serving glass or mug, removing spices (although you can leave the spices in, just don’t eat them). Garnish with a strip of orange zest.

Take the road less traveled, Beth

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A is for apple

by Beth Shepherd
( October 3rd, 2014 )

A is for apple, from our espaliered apple trees.

A is for apple

A is for apples on our espaliered trees

A is for apples

A is for apples in our kitchen window

Take the road less traveled, Beth

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The oldest vineyard in Paris

by Beth Shepherd
( October 2nd, 2014 )

Paris Clos Montmartre vineyard

Strolling through Montmartre, you could easily miss it—a vineyard—in the middle of Paris. And not just any vineyard. but the oldest vineyard in the City of Light: Clos Montmartre.

Vineyards have flourished on Montmartre since the Romans built a temple here dedicated to Bacchus, god of wine. A Benedictine abbey was created on the hill in the 12th century but destroyed during the French revolution. Fortunately Clos Montmartre was spared. But in the early 1900s, phylloxera destroyed the vines and the vineyard was left uncared for. Then, in the 1930s, a group of local artists, including the famous draughtsman and illustrator Francisque Poulbot, petitioned the government to grant them the land so they could replant the vines. The plan was approved and Clos Montmartre was renewed in 1932.

Paris Montmartre

I love Montmartre. On our visits to Paris, it is the neighborhood where we’ve stayed. Winding streets and lovely views are immeasurably enticing. Sacre Coeur aside, the neighborhood became immensely popular following the release of the film, Amélie.

On all our visits, we’ve enjoyed self-guided walking tours using: City Walks in Paris: 50 Adventures on Foot (revised edition).

One of our favorite walks begins along Rue Lepic, the site of the lovely art deco cafe where Amélie worked, Café des Deux Moulins. As you meander up Rue Lepic, you’ll pass the flats that several famous painters, Van Gogh, Picasso and Toulouse-Lautrec, called home. Continuing up the hill (a good workout, I should add), you’ll see the historic Moulin de la Galette, a windmill—still in operation—that inspired Renoir’s famous painting, Le Bal du Moulin de la Galette.

Vine covered home near Clos Montmartre

At last you’ll arrive at the corner of rue des Saules and rue Saint Vincent where the working vineyard is situated against a colorful backdrop of vine-covered homes.Clos Montmartre vineyard stretches over 1,556 square meters (1,850 square yards) on a steep hill, grows 27 varietals (most Gamay and Pinot Noir), and yields 1500 half-liter bottles per year.

However, the wine is only available for purchase (and drinking!) once each year at annual Fête des vendanges (grape harvest party). The Clos Montmartre harvest party has taken place every October, except during World War II. In autumn, the grapes are harvested and brought down to the basement of the town hall in the 18th Arondissement, where they’re pressed, fermented and bottled. Each year’s wine labels are painted by local artists and the money raised from sales of the $50 half-bottles goes to charity.

Francis Gourdin, has been Clos Montmartre’s oenological advisor since 1995. He leads guided tours during the festival and explains to visitors that although it’s not easy to make good wine in such a polluted spot, it’s not impossible. Those who have tasted Clos Montmartre give it mixed reviews, but the bottles are considered collector’s items and are a great souvenir from a fun charitable event.

Paris Clos Montmartre vineyard vines

If you have the good fortune to be traveling to Paris a week from now, Fête des vendanges will be held October 8-12. You can get more information about the festival here.

How to get to Clos Montmartre:          

Street address: 14-18, rue des Saules, 75018, Montmartre, Paris

Metro line:  12

Metro stop:  Lamarck-Coulaincourt

Note: The Montmartre Vineyards are usually closed to visitors. If you are unable to visit during Fête des Vendanges, entry to the vineyard can be arranged through the Montmartre tourist Office at Place du Tertre, if you are in a group of 12 or more. Once inside, you will pay for a tasting, although the tour is free.

Montmartre Clos Montmartre vineyard grapes

Take the road less traveled, Beth

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