For my last post, I had my good friends over to taste test alcohol-free Christmas puddings. Considering three of us are used to the alcohol-steeped variety, we were all surprised by how different they could be.
This time, we’re going to be looking at (and tasting) alcohol-free mulled wine. So how will the festive drinks compare?
All testing was done blind i.e. the tasters didn’t know which one was which. As in the pudding taste test, the panel comprised of:
- Allan, my husband, fellow former-Dry January participant and live-in Guinea Pig.
- Ayesha, Healthcare professional and non-drinker from birth.
- Mykie, baker extraordinaire of The Wondercat Bakery.
For the taste test, I found these five varieties in my local area:
- Marks and Spencer’s Non Alcoholic Mulled Punch (0.75l) £1.99
- Asda’s Mulled Wine Premium Juice Drink (1l) £1.50
- Copella’s Winter Warmer (0.75l) £1-£1.80
- Schwartz Mulled Wine Spices (6 pack) 99p-£1.49
plus Ocean Spray Cranberry and Grape Juice (1l) £1.39
- Aldi’s Rio D’Oro Winter Punch: Grape & Sour Cherry (1l) 99p
As you can see, one of them actually involved doing the mulling yourself. This was just a simple matter of heating the products as per the instructions on the packet.
The ‘cracker factor’ splits the panel
Kicking off with the ‘cracker factor’, or how festive the drink felt, it was clear that the Schwartz Mulled Wine Spices prepared with grape and cranberry juice packed the right punch with the panel. The drinkers on the decided this was the one that left them missing their normal Gluhwein least, with Asda’s version a close second. Ayesha, meanwhile, found the Schwartz version “a bit sharp; very Christmassy!” but the Asda Premium “a little sour”.
Juiced as well
The apple juice-based Copella Winter Warmer had mixed reviews, Ayesha thought it was okay, “a bit sweet and not very spicy”, while I found it a little too close to liquid apple sauce. Mykie and Allan weren’t really enticed by the cloudy look of the drink.
On the other end of the scale, the juicy orange taste in the Asda juice made it my personal favourite, and scored well with the ‘blind’ panel too.
Beauty is on the inside
The Marks & Spencer’s Mulled Punch came in a beautifully labelled glass bottle, which really looked festive, it really didn’t wow the panel. While it was a perfectly acceptable warming beverage that would look lovely as part of a hamper gift, if you’re handing out mugs it loses appeal.
Think outside the (wine) box
We found that those of us who usually drink mulled wine tended to have very similar tastes in this test. We wanted something that reminded us of what we are accustomed to. Mykie and Allan liked the Schwartz best, with Mykie declaring it “Superchristmassy!”. I thought it was nice and tangy, with a good smack of cloves.
Meanwhile, non-drinker Ayesha’s favourite was the unusual Grape and Sour Cherry Winter from Aldi, which she judged “warming, with a good balance between sweet and sour, and very festive”, while Mykie noted it was “tasty, but not really a substitute for mulled wine”.
Mull at home
Using your own favourite spice blend or with the tea-bag style spice pouches such as the Schwartz ones we tested is a great way to keep everyone happy, especially if you’re in a family with both people who do and do not drink alcohol. You can make the amount you want, choose your own base and sweeten to your own taste.
WINNER: Schwartz Mulled Wine Spices with Ocean Spray Cranberry and Grape Juice
HONORABLE MENTION: Asda’s Mulled Wine Premium Juice Drink
SOMETHING A BIT DIFFERENT: Aldi’s Rio D’Oro Winter Punch: Grape & Sour Cherry