German gifts: Do-it-yourself Gluehwein

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

German gifts: Do-it-yourself Glühwein (Day 20)

By Karen Bradbury

One of the most fun and tastiest aspects of a visit to a German Christmas market is downing a warming mug of Glühwein, particularly on a cold night in the company of friends. While it’s hard to re-create the magic of standing beneath the Christmas lights amidst the smells of roasting nuts and meats sizzling on a grill, it is entirely possible to replicate the taste of the mulled wine itself.

You could just reach for a Tetrapak carton or bottle of the ready-made stuff. It’s not horrible. But what goes for a cheap price is going to be a cheap product. So don’t expect the grapes that made their way into that box to be of absolute highest quality.

To truly enjoy and impress your friends, consider making your own.

The task of mulling your own wine is not complicated, but you do need the proper ingredients. The logical first step is to procure a bottle of wine. According to the German Wine Institute, the country’s very fruity red wines (think Dornfelder, Spätburgunder or Trollinger) are well suited to mulling. Wines reminiscent of red fruit become even more expressive and harmonize with the spicy add-ins. White mulled wines do well when based on a Riesling or Müller-Thurgau, for example.

Once the type of wine has been chosen, it’s time to add the spices. Revving up one’s wine with sugar and seasonings has a long history, and even the Romans were in on the technique. In 30 B.C., Marcus Gavius Apicius, a Roman foodie and lover of luxury, is said to have penned a cookbook in which he described a recipe for a spicy wine not far off from the product we know and love today. His shopping list included cinnamon, laurel, star anise, coriander and thyme, along with a healthy portion of honey.

The good news is you don’t necessarily need to run out and buy each and every ingredient. A product known as Glühfix, manufactured by the 130-year old tea importing company Teekanne, gives a kick to your mulled wine with its all-natural ingredients of orange peel, cinnamon and clove. And at about 69 euro cents for a five-pack, it’s a little luxury you can afford.

When warming the mulled wine, do not to heat it too much, or even let it simmer, as the subtle fruit aromas will be lost and bitterness will set in. Additionally, if heated to a temperature of above 78°C, the alcohol will evaporate. And with it, a hint of that Christmas market magic you’re striving to re-create.

Travel tip: over three weekends in January, Bad Rappenau hosts its annual Glühwein themed event, the Winterlicher Glühweinmarkt im Zeitwald. Enjoy a variety of warming winter beverages, including non-alcoholic choices, in the scenic venue of a park on the weekends of Jan. 11-13, 18-20 or 25-27.

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