There are those who believe the perfect slow cooker recipe doesn’t exist.
Castello di Borghese Vineyard and Winery begs to differ.
For the past five years, vineyard co-owner Giovanni Borghese and general manager Evie Kahn have worked to perfect their mulled wine, a popular winter offering for those who visit the tasting room on Route 48 in Cutchogue during the holiday season. Red table wine is poured into a slow cooker and warmed on low as sachets of a signature spice blend steep inside. The result, ladled into glasses and sold for $5, is the quintessential adult beverage for the colder months.
Mulled wine has been around since the Middle Ages and is believed to have been popularized by ancient Romans, who would use the wine to stay warm and, they believed, stave off illness during the period of time they were conquering Europe. Over the years, it gained popularity in many other countries as well, most notably Sweden, where it became known as “glogg.” Ultimately, it became a holiday tradition in many countries.
Because of the way it is made, mulled wine is not sold by the bottle at Borghese. The good news, however, is that fans of Borghese’s concoction can easily make it themselves at home by simply stopping by the tasting room to purchase a bottle of their red table wine and one of the spice blend sachetsthey package and sell there. (Borghese does not make a mulled white wine, which is less popular, but not unheard of).
The sachets the vineyard sells are the result of hard work and dedication on behalf of both Borghese and Kahn, whom he credited with helping to adjust the perfect combination of spices. Borghese said he frequently travels to Kalustyan’s spice market in Manhattan, considered in chef and restaurant circles to be one of the best spice markets in the city.
He purchases the traditional “warming” spices — cinnamon, star anise, clove and orange peel — and over time has worked with Kahn to find the right proportions.
“We did a bit of trial and error,” he said. “We took a basic recipe that we found and tweaked it from there.”
The ingredients call for combining two bottles of Borghese merlot with two ounces of brandy, four ounces of triple sec, 18 ounces of pomegranate juice, two-thirds of a cup of Borghese honey (though any high-quality honey will do), the spice packet and one orange, cut in quarters. It is cooked on a low simmer for six hours, then cools overnight. The spices and orange are removed the next day, and it is reheated on low before serving.
Borghese said that those who want to experiment at home could, of course, play around with the recipe. But no matter the blend, he strongly cautions against overheating the wine.
Borghese’s spice sachets make a great holiday or hostess gift, as the vineyard takes care with the presentation, with whole cinnamon sticks and star anise featured prominently.
The mulled wine has been a hit at the winery for the last few years.
“We get a wonderful response from it,” Borghese said. “It’s the kind of response where we wish we could bottle it up and sell it, but it’s not really possible because of the process. So it’s more of a serving suggestion.”
Included with the sachets sold at Borghese is a small index card with the mulled wine recipe.
Borghese said his vineyard does not create different spice blends, but rather has stuck with the blend it has honed over the years, for simplicity’s sake.
Another important suggestion is to use a simple red table wine when making mulled wine, rather than an expensive vintage or Bordeaux.
“Just use an easy, approachable everyday red table wine,” Borghese said. “The kind of wine you might contribute to a sangria.”