And so this most absurd, dismal, unthinkable of years comes to an end. A year that openly embraced racism, xenophobia, inequality, monopolies, sexism, fascism, ultranationalism, lies, conspiracy theories, and outright denial that any of the above are problematic.
Don’t get us wrong, there have also been plenty of good things. Interesting things, even. We’ve seen unexpected acts of kindness all around. We’ve seen creative explosions of pure delight. We’ve seen unbeatable determination to stand up for a better world.
WineStreet started this year betting on “The Roaring Twenties”. 2020 definitely came roaring, but not with the right kind of tune. So we’re adding our own, tipping the scales even if just a tiny bit. To end this year on the perfect note, we mixed a few of our favourite things, and we leave you with the notation for you to follow and the obligatory warmth of a big glass of glow wine.
A glass of wine, heated, spiced and honeyed to wrap your body as a cosy blanket, has been known around Mediterranean ways for at least the last five millennia (earliest evidence from around 3150 BCE), with the ancient Egyptians using it for medicinal purposes and as a companion to the afterlife, interring it in the tombs of pharaohs and other royals. The recipe, different from what we see today, often included pine resin, figs, and herbs like balm, coriander, mint and sage. The Greeks, also partial to their wine, changed the recipe to include other spices, making sure that even the last part of the harvest wouldn’t go to waste. And in the Levant, where the first grape varieties are thought to have been brought to Egypt from, there were also local mixtures to preserve and season their wines, with archaeological digs finding evidence of added tree resins.
But the first recorded use of heated spiced wine was around the 4th century. Both the Greeks and the Romans had taken to boiling some of their wine over a slow fire, and mixing it with bad wine to make it better, along with honey and spices — a drink that eventually came to be a favourite among the Romans. This original CONDITVM PARADOXVM recipe was written for posterity in the last remaining roman recipe book called “De Re Coquinaria”, a collection of recipes often attributed to Apicius, a man with a taste for the fine things in life, who had lived around 3 centuries earlier.
As the Roman Empire spread across Europe, so did this warm drink, that by regional influences eventually came to be known by other names, and taste of the local herbs. By the middle ages, spiced wine was once again seen as medicinal. The water couldn’t be drunk because of the Black Plague, the wine wasn’t particularly tasty, and the added spices were believed to make people healthier. From the 1400-1600s, recipe variations start appearing in Germany (Glühwein), England (Mulled Wine), and Sweden (Glögg).
But plenty of other countries continue to have their own version of this sweet and scented wine, mostly drunk around the colder months leading up to the year’s end. Hungary, with a particular pride for its wines, enjoys a good forralt bor. Around some Balkan Countries, a kuhano vino is often made with various combinations of nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, aniseed sugar/honey or orange zest. In the Netherlands bisschopswijn is drunk, a nod to Father Christmas lookalike Sinterklaas, a 4th-century bishop. In Portugal, vinho quente forgoes the sugar, by using sweet wines instead, like a Porto or a Madeira wine.
Recently, one of our friends at Collective Z posted their own recipe. We thought it looked so great, outdoors and all, that we’re resharing his recipe here. The ingredients, as Christoph puts it, are plain and simple:
- Spektakel wine
- honey from Berntal
- fennel from Berntal
- one orange squeezed with pulp and juice into the mix
- a dash of cinnamon
And now for our own recipe, that would surely leave Santa proud:
- Bring your favourite people together. If you’re lucky to have them in your home, perfect. If not, a phone or video call will do. Or if you can brave it, go for a wild outdoors winter picnic, with all the physical distance necessary to keep you safe.
- Once you have the time and place, and all the invites sent, get yourself a nice bottle of wine (or juice), and give it a little spice. You have plenty of recipes above to get you started. Or be daring and try your own. Sip together throughout the night. Or day — we’re not judging 😉
- Bring some other edible treats. A nice cheese platter, some ginger cookies, that olive bread you’ve been coveting at your bakers for so long… Whatever tickles your fancy! We bet you’ll get peckish at some point.
- Spend some time with those you love. Have a little chat, a little laugh, a little dance. Damn, have a little cry if you’re feeling it. Play some games, fight about who won (clearly by cheating) and then have another sip. Whisper into someone’s ear that you love them. Or shout it at the top of your lungs. Leave knowing that you just gave them the most precious gift: yourself.
- Repeat as necessary into the new year.
Whichever recipe you choose, we suggest adding a little soul to your ears while preparing it. We leave you with a german-brewed very fine tune peppered with international spice.
From us at WineStreet, have a lovely funky Christmas, and shake this year’s sucker-punches off with a spicy warm sip. See you in the new year!