When you travel to Europe in winter, chances are you’ll enjoy quite a few outings to the many markets that pop up the lead-up to Christmas time, which means you’ll have plenty of opportunity to indulge in steaming cups of Glühwein – the hot, fragrant mulled wine that is the unofficial festive drink of many European nations.
December is the time for mulled wine all across Europe and as you drink it you can taste winter in your mouth! If you plan to travel to destinations like France, Germany, Austria, Hungary and even Russia this winter, here’s what you need to know about this must-taste winter treat…
It’s an age-old holiday tradition.
Glühwein (roughly translated as “glow-wine”, a term derived from the hot irons that was once used to mull the wine) is popular in German-speaking countries and in the Alsace region in France. The beverage is traditionally served around the Christmas holidays and dates back all the way to the 2nd century – the Romans are credited as the first nation to heat and spice wine during their military march across Europe. In fact, they were so attached to their daily tipple that they brought along a bevy of winemakers and viticulturists to establish vineyards throughout their newly conquered territories.
You can compare & contrast regional variations.
Glühwein is usually prepared from red wine, which is heated and spiced with cinnamon sticks, cloves, star aniseed, citrus, sugar and vanilla pods.
There is also a variation of Glühwein that is made from white wine. When you travel through Europe on a multi-country tour during winter you’ll be able to sample mulled wine as it is prepared by different cultures. In the Netherlands, Glühwein is called bisschopswijn (‘bishop’s wine’) and made using oranges instead of lemons; in France it is called vin chaud (‘hot wine’) and served less sweet; in Bulgaria they add honey, peppercorns and apples and call it greyano vino (‘heated wine’); while in Italy you’ll find it served as vin brulé (‘burnt wine’). One of our favourites is the German version served with a flaming cone of sugar on top. You can find it at Christmas fairs, called “Feuerzangentasse”, which is German for ‘Fire Cup’.
It holds actual health benefits.
Far from being just a festive novelty to be sipped at the fireside in the lead-up to Christmas, there are plenty of great health benefits that go along with a freshly brewed batch of Glühwein. Red wine is a great source of antioxidants, which increases levels of HDL (good cholesterol) and can significantly reduce the risk heart disease associated clogged arteries; cinnamon boasts potent anti-inflammatory properties; and nutmeg is a powerful tonic that rids the liver and kidneys of toxins.
Enjoy Europe’s festive traditions with Expat Explore.
We have a wonderful selection of tours that amble through Europe’s most magical destinations over the winter holidays, including our Christmas and New Year tours – specifically designed for this season! Take a look, get inspired and enjoy a taste of Europe’s many-splendored holiday traditions this winter!