Herbal Wine & You’ll be Mine
This Valentine’s day, mix it up a little bit. Instead of a plain (yawn) glass of wine, infuse herbs right into your bottle. Pairing just the right herbs with your wine adds another layer of flavor and complexity to the experience. It also delivers the healthy benefits of the herbs to you and your loved one in a tasty and fun way. Herbal infused wine has a rich history, most notably made popular by Hildegard of Bingen. There are many ways to infuse wine and herbs together. To keep it simple (and doable in time for Valentine’s Day) we’ll start with finished wine.
If you don’t have an herbal apothecary available to you, that’s okay! Using ingredients that you may already have around your kitchen is simple and there are many more to choose from than you may originally think. Below are a few examples to get you started:
Ginger root, Rose Petals, Lavender, Cardamom Pods, Allspice, Cinnamon, Cumin, Mint, Sage, Basil, Rosemary, Lemon Peels, Lime Peels, Orange Peels, Cayenne, Cacao Nibs
My favorite winter mixture is a deep dry red wine infused with cinnamon, cayenne, ginger and orange peel. The brightness of the orange peel and pungent flavor of the ginger merge beautifully to provide somewhat of a sangria taste. Another one, likely most appropriate for dessert is sweet and spicy featuring cacao nibs and cayenne.
If you are looking for something on the lighter side, simply tossing a few fresh sage leaves and rosemary sprigs into your white wine (pictured) add a complexity to the flavor and a freshness to the finish. Sage leaves or rosemary sprigs are also quite nice alone in a white wine.
INFUSING INTO A BOTTLE OF WHITE
2-4 Fresh Sage Leaves
1-2″ Sprig of Fresh Rosemary
3-5 Fresh Sage Leaves
1 Tablespoon of Fresh Orange Peel/Zest (or 1 teaspoon of dried Orange Peel/Zest)
1″ Sprig of Fresh Rosemary
INFUSING INTO A BOTTLE OF RED
1 teaspoon of Cinnamon chips
1/2 Teaspoon of Cayenne
1/2 Teaspoon of Fresh Grated Ginger
1 teaspoon Orange Peel/Zest
1 teaspoon of dried Schizandra Berry (This one, you might not have on hand. Read up on it and you might want it!)
1-2 teaspoons Orange Peel/Zest
1 teaspoon of Cacao Nibs (or powder if using a mesh bag)
1/2 teaspoon of Cayenne (or powder if using a mesh bag)
1 teaspoon of Cinnamon Chips (or powder if using a mesh bag)
You can infuse the wine as little as an hour before you plan to drink it, often the recommendation is to infuse for longer however with aromatic or fresh herbs I find an hour or the day before extracts just the right amount of flavor. Yes, you can still do this in time for dinner tonight! The longer the herbs remain in the wine the more deeply the flavors will merge and further beneficial actions of the plants will be extracted.
If you are putting dried berries, fresh leaves or zests into your wine you can put them right into the bottle. For an attractive presentation you can pour wine into a decanter and add herbs. If you are using powders to infuse, you may want to put them directly into the bottle and shake often to mix well or consider using an organic cotton mesh tea bag. Any way you choose, you’ll want a strainer handy when pouring glasses of wine. Simply pour through the strainer, relax, and enjoy a delicious glass (or two) knowing that you have added the benefits of herbs!