Artisan Red Wine Soft Caramels

Rich merlot wine adds fruity notes and deep red color to soft butter caramels. One batch makes plenty to share, or gift them for a special occasion. 

Red Wine Soft Caramels

I have been working on this red wine candy caramel recipe since last December, and at long last – it’s finally ready to share! I had hoped to have the formula finalized and the recipe posted here before Valentine’s Day, but it needed a few more small tweaks. It would have been perfect for a sweetheart gift, but it’s a good candy to enjoy year-round.

The first thing you’ll notice when eating this candy is its brown sugar caramel notes, then immediately following is the flavor of tangy red fruits and grape notes. It’s not so much boozy as it is complex. All of the characteristics listed on the wine bottle, such as flavors of blackberry, raspberry, and plum are all brought forward in this candy.

Red Wine Soft Caramels

Go for the bold.

Through testing I learned that only the boldest red wines should be used. I had underwhelming results from a bottle of pinot noir. Subtle flavor is not a virtue here. Merlot and cabernet sauvignon – two wines that are known for their deep berry flavors – are ideal for this recipe.

The first step is making a wine reduction on the stove top with just a little balsamic vinegar added to it. That may sound like a strange ingredient, but good balsamic vinegar is made from one ingredient: grape must. Grape must is a result of the skins, seeds, and stems of the grape being boiled down and concentrated, then it is aged in wood barrels for the vinegar. In this recipe it gives this candy’s flavor a boost without any obvious or overt vinegar flavor.

Edit: I added a few drops of sparkling wine flavoring oil to a recent batch, which everyone seemed to love! You can find the ingredient here if you’d like to try it.

Red Wine Soft Caramels

The deep red color of the candy is so beautiful and 100% natural. I couldn’t resist gilding the pieces with a little edible gold leaf and fleur de sel.

Red Wine Soft Caramels

Wrap it up!

These caramels are soft, which means they have a luxurious bite but they’ll need to be individually wrapped very soon after cutting them. If left unwrapped, their shape will relax and slump. Refrigeration will firm the candy and help them keep their shape, so I recommend slicing the caramel while it is chilled.

A box of these will be a great gift for a red wine connoisseur. But you don’t have to be a wine-lover to eat them! They are more fruity and grape-y than anything. I think they’d make nice favors for a small wedding reception or other festive occasion, and one batch certainly makes enough to share! 

Artisan Red Wine Caramels

Heather Baird
Rich merlot wine adds fruity notes and deep red color to soft butter caramels. One batch makes plenty to share, or gift them for a special occasion. 
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
5 hours to set 5 hrs
Total Time 5 hrs 40 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 75

Equipment

  • 1 roll wax paper

Ingredients
 
 

  • 1 bottle merlot wine divided
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar Modena type
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar firmly packed
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt fine grain
  • 5-7 drops sparkling wine flavoring oil optional
  • 2 pinches fleur de sel
  • 1 piece edible gold leaf 3×3-inch

Instructions
 

  • Butter and line a 13 x 9-inch pan with parchment paper that overhangs the edges (or use a silicone 13×9 pan for easiest candy removal).
  • Remove 1/3 cup of red wine from the bottle to a large cook pot (5 quart or larger). Set aside.
  • Pour the remaining wine (about 2 3/4 cups) into a separate medium saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and then set the heat back to a constant simmer. Cook until the wine is reduced by half, then add 2 tablespoons of the balsamic vinegar. Continue to cook the mixture down until reduced to 3 tablespoons of concentrated red wine flavoring. This may take approximately 40 minutes.
  • To the pot with the 1/3 cup of wine, add the sugars, butter, heavy cream, and corn syrup. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Butter will melt and mixture will begin to boil. Continue to cook until candy thermometer reaches 245-248 degrees, this will take approximately 20-25 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cut wax paper into approx. 5 x 5-inch squares. I like to use pinking shears for a pretty, zigzag edge.
  • When soft ball temperature has been reached, remove from the heat and stir in the fine grain salt, red wine reduction, drops of flavoring oil, if using, and the remaining tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. The mixture should turn deep red with this addition. Pour caramel into the prepared pan. Let cool for an hour and then place in the refrigerator to firm.
  • Remove caramel block from the pan using the overhanging parchment and place on a cutting board. Cut 1/3 of the block of caramel at a time using a large warmed chef’s knife (return the remaining caramel block to the refrigerator to keep chilled). Add garnishes to the pieces if using and wrap in wax paper immediately.
  • Candies can be stored at room temperature for up to a week. They’ll keep longer if stored in the refrigerator air-tight.

Notes

You can start cooking the candy caramel mixture after the wine mixture is reduced by half, and both reduction and caramel should be done at about the same time.
Use only the boldest flavored red wines. An inexpensive merlot will work just fine. I tested this recipe with Gnarly Head ($7.99).
Choose a good quality balsamic vinegar that is includes “Product of Modena” in its description and aged at a minimum of 3-4 years. Colavita and Alessi brands are acceptable choices and inexpensive. Vinegars aged longer will be more expensive and less acidic. Use what your budget allows.
Remember, these caramels are soft, so they must be wrapped or they will lose their shape!
Keyword butter caramels, candy, gold leaf, red wine
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
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Nata
Nata
4 months ago

They are beautiful!!

Heather Baird
Heather Baird
4 months ago
Reply to  Nata

Thank you so much!

Carries Creations
Carries Creations
4 months ago

Absolutely gorgeous!

Heather Baird
Heather Baird
4 months ago

Thank you! xo

Uleedog
Uleedog
4 months ago

Should one use a really good balsamic or a Kirkland type? Thank you

Heather Baird
Heather Baird
4 months ago
Reply to  Uleedog

I haven't tested Kirkland brand, but it does list grape must as its first ingredient which makes me think it would work well. You don't have to use top shelf (such as DOP certified) for this recipe.

Unknown
Unknown
4 months ago

I can't wait to try this for my friend that I help in her Tasting Room at her vineyard, Huntingcreek makes lovely reds to include Merlots when our crazy weather doesn't kill the buds.