This is a delightful punch that can be made any time of the year and not just in May. This traditional wine is an old libation originating in Germany and is consumed throughout Europe. I was surprised how many countries celebrate May Day as a springtime celebration with their own unique customs. Not only do European countries celebrate May Day but also people in certain regions of the United States, Australia and Canada.
Infusing white wine, often a Riesling from the Mosel or Rhine regions of Germany, with sweet woodruff and champagne gives this beverage a special herbal flavor. I added my own twist by macerating strawberries in a little sugar (gives the wine that beautiful color) and substituting champagne for a sparkling white wine called Prosecco. It may sound silly, but I do not like to open champagne bottles. So, I picked one of the few sparkling wines that did not have a cork and I just used a bottle opener.
What is the difference between Prosecco and champagne? To be called champagne it has to be made in the Champagne region of France and it can only be produced there. Other wines that are effervescent are called sparkling wines such as Prosecco which is made in Italy and limited to the Veneto region. Champagne is often twice the price which is reason enough for me to drink a sparkling wine instead They both tend to be on the dry side rather than have a sweet flavor. There are differences in storage and the fermentation process. Depending on who you talk to they are very comparable in flavor. If you can afford it buy champagne, if not pick a nice sparkling wine especially for large and even small gatherings such as weddings or anniversaries.
How pretty is this and it tastes good too!
May Wine with Strawberries and Sweet Woodruff
- a handful (about 12) of sweet woodruff sprigs or Galium odoratum (see comments and pictures of this herb at the end of the post)
- 3 pints (1 pint = about 2 cups of cut up berries) of small fresh strawberries if you can find them, or larger strawberries and just cut them up
- 1/2 cup sugar or less; this depends on your wine (I did use 1/4 cup per 2 cups of berries and 1 bottle of Piesporter and macerated them)
- 2 bottles of riesling or other white wine from the Rhine or Mosel regions in Germany; I used Piesporter which is a white light body dry wine that is made on the north bank of the Mosel wine region, chilled
- sweet woodruff sprigs and blossoms for garnish
- other edible flowers such as pansies, violas, rose petals or any other edible flowers in bloom
- 1 bottle champagne; I substituted Prosecco, a sparkling white wine, chilled
Heat the handful of sweet woodruff sprigs on a baking sheet in a low oven for a few minutes to bring out the coumarin flavor. I set the oven to 200°F and dried them for 2-3 minutes. My, does that bring out the strong scent of the herb. Or if you have some dried sweet woodruff this is good to use as well because as it wilts and continues to dry the flavor and aroma become more intense. Rinse the berries and reserve a pint of the best looking for garnishing the punch.
Remove the stems from the 2 pints of berries and add a pint (about 2 cups small or cut in half if they are big) of berries and half of the sugar to each of two pitchers. I chose to add the sugar as the wine I used is on the dry side. Macerate the berries with sugar (a potato masher works well) then add half the sweet woodruff and a bottle of wine to each pitcher and stir well. Cover the pitchers and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours. I tasted the wine and decided after 8 hours there was a wonderful fruity taste from the strawberries and a slight hint of coumarin, but it was not overpowering. So, I suggest starting slow and do taste tests to see if you have achieved the flavor you want. Some recipes say 1 hour is enough; it just depends on whether you use fresh or dried and how long you infuse it. I left the strawberries in overnight.
Strain the wine to remove the fruit pulp and sweet woodruff and pour the strained wine into a punch bowl. I use my trifle bowl as my punch bowl is too big for this recipe. Stir in the champagne and garnish with strawberries, sweet woodruff sprigs, and fresh edible flowers such as violas. Other good edible flowers are lavender, lemon balm and chamomile flowers.
Freeze edible flowers in ice cube trays or make an ice mold. Freeze purified water in a ring mold, add edible flowers or mint or woodruff sprigs, add a little more water and freeze. Repeat until the mold is filled.
Recipe by cooking with aunt juju https://cookingwithauntjuju.com/2014/05/22/may-wine-with-…sweet-woodruff/
I used Piesporter from Germany and Prosecco from Italy for my May Wine.
Fresh sweet woodruff sprigs drying in the oven for a few minutes before adding to the May wine.
What a beautiful color the punch has from the macerated strawberries.
I made ice cubes the day before with some of the wine and fresh violas. I used three different ice cube trays; fruit, flowers and hearts. Pour a thin layer of wine, top with a small viola or other edible flower and press it into the liquid. Let it freeze solid then top it off with more wine and freeze again until ready to serve.
The pulp has been removed and what a pretty color the wine is now!
Added my bubbly…
My ice cubes made with a fruit, heart and flower molds – add last as they melt faster than regular ice cubes with water.
My strawberries were big so I cut them in half and added some fresh violas and the ice cubes. Next month our Michigan strawberries will come in and they are small, sweet and the best!
Garnished the glasses with an orange slice and voila!
My finished May wine and ready for serving…
Sweet Woodruff or Galium odoratum is a flowering perennial plant in the family Rubiaceae. It is a low growing ground cover that starts to bloom in late April to early May. The plant has small, star-shaped white flowers and prefers partial to full shade in rather moist, rich soils. Its sweet smell is from the agent coumarin. I absolutely love this plant and this spring we have had so much rain that it is thriving and blooming beautifully.
I just love the way it mingles with my Bruneras, Virginia Bluebells and Hostas in my shady garden. After the Virginia bluebells die back the hostas takes over.
I not only like to use this herb in wine but it makes great potpourri when dried and can be used as a moth deterrent. I am sure it can be used in many food items where you want this flavor. This herb has a long history of herbal and medicinal use such as treating ailments such as jaundice in the Middle Ages or a poultice for wounds and cuts. In modern day herbalism Sweet Woodruff is used for diuretic and anti-inflammatory effects and to ease stomach aches.