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.
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.
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.
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 would 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
- 1 roll wax paper
- 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
- 2 pinches fleur de sel
- 1 piece edible gold leaf 3×3-inch
- 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, 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.