Nothing quite says Christmas more than your icy breath rising in front of you as you gather with friends at a festive market, and someone hands you a toasty mug of mulled wine.
Well, these aren’t really the conditions we performed this taste test, but you get the idea.
I roped my family into blind testing six bottles of mulled wine from six different supermarkets, and our breath may not have been rising in front of us, but we did turn the heating down in our house, so what’s the difference really?
A jug of wine from each bottle was microwaved and distributed amongst my family, with crisps as a palette cleanser where necessary, so it was all pretty professional.
All the wine was prepared the same way - and while it may not be the optimal way to heat mulled wine, it was at least consistent.
Without further ado, here are the results.
In last place, we have Lidl. Not miles behind, but unfortunately, there was a tangy, bitter taste that just wasn’t really smooth enough.
Not irredeemable, and there’s no messing around with that price, or with the bigger bottle, but with words like “chemical” and “cough mixture” being bandied around the table, there was no way it could achieve a higher grade.
Top marks for the bottle though, stylish and fun label, and as mentioned, there’s more of it, which is always a plus.
This may surprise many of you, but second last was M&S. It was dark and sweet, but not a lot of spice.
One of my brothers described it as a “fruit cider” which although not a bad thing, is not really what you’re looking for in a classic mulled wine.
The bottle’s dead classy though which does a bit to help its case, as it’ll look good on your kitchen counter as your party guests arrive, it just doesn’t perform quite as well when it’s in the glass.
Waitrose has hit joint third place, dry and sweet, but again, not enough of those much needed spices.
There was orange, and another brother has added something about notes of dark chocolate and cranberry, so we appear to be really hitting our stride at this point.
Similar to the M&S one, there’s the sweetness, but not the booziness that my family are craving.
Joining Waitrose in joint third place is Tesco. A real mixed bag this one, with some of my family putting this in last place, and others in second, leaving it averaging in the middle, but there were strong opinions.
This could be the fault of the blind taste testing aspect, as unlike the other bottles, this mulled wine has a much lower alcohol percentage, which is very apparent by the taste.
It’s quite watery and juice-like, it does not pack a punch, which is fair enough, I’m honestly not sure it’s meant to.
If you’re looking for something much lighter, then this is your dream drink, but it can’t really be described as a full bodied mulled wine (or as my brother wrote on his score sheet, “it is almost undetectably mulled wine.”).
In second place, Asda. With a good amount of spice and citrus, a slightly bland but inoffensive Christmassy bottle, this one was a good performer.
It wasn’t too sweet, and although a few of us found it a bit tangy, it was nothing compared to others on the list. It also smells really good.
The only negative comment I can really find on our score sheets is a scribbled “not boozy enough”... you can really tell where our priorities lay.
Drum roll please…. In at first place…
This wine received a unanimous vote. Every single one of us agreed it was the best, which is a true Christmas miracle - I don't think we’ve all agreed on something since the mid 90s.
It was a dark, fruity, spicy blend, its smooth and sweet, without any one flavour overpowering the rest.
The bottle is sleek and classy, and with one comment on our score sheets reading “proper Christmas”, I think it is a fair and worthy winner.