Get your Glühwein on

Get your Glühwein on

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

A sure sign that Christmas time is near is the popping up of the beloved Advent markets. As the end of November approaches, these festive-season markets spring up from Switzerland to Sweden, and Europeans postpone their winter slumber to take part in the ritual of shopping, eating and drinking with friends and family. And when it comes to pre-holiday drinking, there’s one beverage that stands out as the clear favorite: the mulled wine referred to in German speaking lands as Glühwein, also known, depending on where you are and how the recipe’s been tweaked, as “vin chaud,” “glögg,” “vino caliente” or dozens of other terms.

Glühwein at its most basic for is a red, or less commonly, white wine that’s been jazzed up with the addition of cinnamon, cloves, lemon peels, star anise and other spicy substances. It’s more than likely been sweetened with sugar, or perhaps with honey or even a touch of spirits (“mit Schuss”). The wine is served at a temperature somewhere around 163°F – any hotter and the alcohol content vanishes into thin air, and who wants that to happen? A typical Glühwein will generally come in anywhere between 9% and 13% in terms of alcohol content, making it even more intoxicating than your average beer.

The tradition of taking less-than-stellar wine and making it palatable by adding spices dates back at least to the time of the Greeks, and even the Romans knew that drinking warmed-up wine would make them feel toasty on the inside as well. In the Middle Ages, drinking spiced wine was considered to have health benefits, and was a habit mostly confined to the upper classes.

The first attempt to sell the beloved beverage in bottled form in modern times spelled trouble for its maker. In the winter of 1956, a wine dealer from Augsburg by the name of Rudolf Kunzmann added sugar and spices to a wine and sold it labeled as Glühwein. As the laws pertaining to the sale of wine forbade the addition of sugar to wine, Kunzmann’s creativity resulted in him having to pay a fine.

Once the laws were changed to allow other ingredients to wine – with the proper labeling, of course – endless versions of this cheap and cheery drink were to follow. But tastes do change, and just as craft beer arose in response to mass-produced, uninteresting brews, quality in Glühwein is currently trending. Nowadays, even serious winemakers practice the art of crafting delicious variations of it, particularly from Spätburgunder, Dornfelder or Regent grapes.

Should you happen to visit a Christmas market taking place in one of Germany’s 13 wine-producing regions, make way to a stand selling not just Glühwein but “Winzerglühwein.” The mulled wine sold there will have been made by one specific winemaker, and likely be offered in a variety of enticing flavors, from blackcurrant to raspberry. For a change of pace, go for the Glühwein made from one of the white varieties of grape, flavored with apple, vanilla or cinnamon notes.

Feeling merry this festive season? Impress your family with this simple recipe which comes courtesy of the German Wine Institute:




1 liter locally produced red wine (there’s no need to go for the top shelf stuff)

Sugar, preferably in candied form (Kandis)

1 orange

1 lemon

4 cloves

1 stick cinnamon

Sweeten the wine to your own taste with sugar; honey could also be used. The sweeter the base wine, the less sweetener you’ll wish to use. Add slices of the lemon and orange, using fruits with peels that haven’t been coated with pesticides or preservatives, along with the rest of the spices. Adding slices of apples will further refine the taste. To make a white mulled wine, replace the cloves with star anise.

Heat the liquid over medium heat, being sure not to bring it to a boil. Cooking with excess heat makes the delicate fruit aromas disappear and creates a bitter taste. Leave the wine to steep at a low temperature for a few hours. Remove the spices with a sieve and re-warm before serving, but don’t serve it overly hot. For more Glühwein tips, see

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