I admit, it might seem I'm joining the rest of the mindless morons who think Christmas preparations should start as soon as the kids go back to school in September, but... This is the time of year I start preparing my spiced wines to ward off the cold weather we hope won't be too severe over December and January. Most of the supermarkets will be stocking spiced wine over the next couple of months although they mostly have a flavour of oranges and a bit cinnamon. This recipe is one I have used for a number of years and is straight from the 1500's. It is called Ypocras and will certainly help to ward off any infections that may be floating around at the time. The original recipe called for a barrel of red wine and required between four or five pounds of spices. Here is the modern translation which I think will surprise you. Red Ypocras: Pour a bottle of red wine* into a large pan. Add about 2-3 cups of demerara sugar (light brown stuff) and bring to the boil. Add heaped teaspoons of ground ginger, white cardamom, ground white pepper, ground cloves, ground nutmeg and caraway seeds. Check for sweetness and add more sugar to your personal taste. Remove from the heat, leave to stand (covered) for 24 hours then once the sediment has settled, ladle most of the liquid back into the bottle. A kitchen sieve lined with a couple of layers of cheesecloth will allow you to filter and clean up any sediment left in the pan. Stopper the bottles and leave in a dark, cool place until the middle of December. * I prefer a Ruby Cabernet, it tastes slightly of cherries. White Ypocras: Pour a bottle of white wine* into a large pan. Add about 1.5-2 cups of clear honey. Bring to the boil and add heaped teaspoons of aniseeds, caraway seeds, ground cinnamon, ground white pepper and ground nutmeg. Take off the boil, cover and leave to stand for 24 hours before bottling and filtering the sediment. Store in a cool, dark place until December. * I prefer a Chardonnay. The ingredients may seem a little odd but the blended flavour when you eventually pour out small measures, which should be warmed in a microwave, will make this stand out from the commercial recipes. Serve with a couple of hot, traditional, sweet mince pies after you've been outside for a few hours - it really hits the spot. A friend of mine who is diabetic, has adjusted the recipe slightly and simply used a sweet white wine without adding the honey and she claims she can enjoy small amounts without adverse effects. If anyone has a traditional family recipe for a favourite seasonal drink I would love to try them out. Just add them to this post.