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Glass of Maiwein

(German white wine with sweet woodruff)

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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


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


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