Right after I graduated from college, I spent two years in Munich (München), Germany. It was an eventful time in my life. It was the first time I’d ever lived in a metropolitan area. Turns out I’m a city dweller at heart. Also, my first son was born. Yeah, that was a big one. It was an amazing time in many ways. It seemed there was a surprise, a new experience around every corner. One of the most beautiful was seeing the Kristkindlmarkt on Marienplatz. There had been snow early and often our first year, so there was a frosting of snow on the buildings and some of the stalls as we wandered the market looking at the handicrafts – we bought crystal tree ornaments. All the while the pungent aromas of glühwein and roasted chestnuts filled the air.
Despite the fact that it wasn’t Münchener Glühwein, I was excited when I saw this on the shelf of a local supermarket in January. Even though the holidays had passed, it was still cold enough to warrant a nice warm beverage.
Winemaker: Gerstacker Weinkellerei
Wine: Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt Glühwein
Varietal: Red Spiced Wine
Price: $8.99 per Liter
Notes: The color of this spiced red was a pale garnet. Not surprisingly, the bouquet held scents of winter spices – esp. clove – and dark fruit. Directions on the bottle instructed me to heat the wine to 170 degrees Fahrenheit without boiling. Once that was done, we were able to pour it into our holiday mugs. Yes, we have holiday mugs! I found this wine light-bodied with good acidity and no noticeable tannins. Sweet at 10% alcohol, the Gerstacker Glühwein was a mug full of plummy, berry, spicy goodness. It was simple, pleasant, warming enjoyment on a very cold night. Temperatures outside were in the teens, but the warmth of this spiced wine and the memories it brought to mind kept us cozy inside. For an hour or two, it was the holidays all over again.
Germany has a long tradition when it comes to Mulled Wine. The oldest documented Glühwein tankard dates back to 1420. It belonged Count John IV of Katzenelnbogen who is said to be the very first vintner to ever have planted the Riesling grape on a large scale. Glühwein is the traditional German Christmas drink. It’s not only sold on every Christmas-market but also cooked a home.
1) Traditional Glühwein
Traditional Glühwein is based on red wine. Usually a very young and fruity wine is used to produce Glühwein. The wine should not have more than 12% or 12.5% alcohol by volume. Citrus, cinnamon sticks, cloves and star aniseed are the most important spices for traditional German Glühwein. Depending on how strong you want your Glühwein you have to add Orange juice. If you want to try Glühwein at home then follow these simple instructions: Heat 0,75 liters of red wine and 0,25l of orange juice in a pot. But be careful – don’t let it boil! Cut 1/2 orange and 1 lemon into slices. Add them together with 3 cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks, and 2 star aniseed to the wine. Let everything cook for around 15 minutes but once again don’t let it boil. Use a colander to separate the Glühwein from the spices and serve it in tankards. Of course this is just one of many possible ways to prepare Glühwein and there is no right or wrong recipe. Just make sure that it tastes like Christmas!
Now that winter is officially here and the holidays are squarely upon us, my mind tends to reminisce over holidays past. One of my most vivid memories of the holiday season is a December spent in Munich. It was almost magical walking through the Christkindlmarkt at night shopping for handmade tree ornaments with the smell of Glühwein and roasted chestnuts in the chilly air while snow blanketed the city and environs. I’m slightly envious that vinoinlove lives in Munich, but I think that makes him a great source for a good Glühwein recipe. So on some cold winter’s night in the coming months, you may want to try one of these to warm and cheer you. He’s been thoughtful enough to include recipes for some additional German beverage specialties in addition to the mulled wines. Oh! And …