(German white wine with sweet woodruff)
Maiwein, or May wine, is a German springtime tradition. Spring is when sweet woodruff, known as "Waldmeister" in German, comes into bloom. This woodland groundcover has a distinctive perfume-like aroma and flavor. These heady notes are infused into white wine for a celebratory beverage.
Other German names for Maiwein include Waldmeisterbowle, Maibowle, or Maitrank.
Makes 12 to 15 servings
- Dry German riesling -- 2 (750-ml) bottles
- Half-dry German sekt or other sparkling wine -- 1 (750-ml) bottle
- Sweet woodruff leaves -- 1/2 cup packed
- Sweet woodruff flowers (optional) -- 1/4 cup
- Gather the sweet woodruff a few hours before you are going to use it to infuse the wine and let them set out after giving them a quick rinse. This gives the leaves a chance to wilt, activating an aromatic compound and intensifying their flavor. If you don't want to wait, you can achieve the same result by putting the leaves in a bag and throwing them in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Place the wilted sweet woodruff—leaves only, no stems—into a large glass jar or carafe. Add one of the bottles of riesling, and infuse the herbs in the wine for about 30 minutes.
- Strain the leaves from the wine and discard. Mix the infused wine in a pitcher or punch bowl with the other two bottles. Serve well chilled, garnishing glasses with a sprinkle of flowers.
Maiwein Notes and Variations
- If you prefer a sweeter beverage, buy a sweet riesling or stir a little sugar into the Maiwein.
- Higher alcohol version: If you'd like to pack a bigger punch in your punchbowl, stir in a bit of brandy or cognac.
- Lower alcohol version: Use a bottle of sparkling mineral water instead of sparkling wine.
- Non-alcoholic Maiwein: Use apple juice and sparkling mineral water instead of wine. Or make it easy on yourself and use three (750-ml) bottles of sparkling apple juice.
- Optional garnishes: Germans like to garnish Maiwein with a variety of fruit to make a sangria-like beverage. Popular fruits include sliced strawberries, fresh currants, raspberries, orange slices or pineapple. Use 1 or 2 cups of fruit for this recipe. A few sprigs of mint add a nice touch too.
- Health note: You should probably avoid Maiwein if you have liver or kidney issues. Coumarin, the aromatic agent in sweet woodruff, can be moderately toxic to those organs at certain doses.