From the earliest days of wine making, people have been infusing herbs into their vino for health and wellness as well as for flavor. A crisp Riesling or Rosé is the perfect backdrop for getting creative. Infusing wine with herbs is an old European tradition (and a new VINEBOX one) that adds a surprisingly modern twist to your next get together. You're sure to impress even the foodiest of your foodie friends. Here are some tips and mini-recipes to get you started.
How to Infuse Your Wine
The best wines for herbal infusions are ones best served cold because they'll need to chill in the fridge for several days. Rosés are perfect because they're so darn pretty, but a light Sancerre or not-too-sweet Riesling will also work. In general, you want to choose a gentle backdrop to let the herbal flavors shine through.
Open your wine bottle and pour out a glass. Pop a half-dozen sprigs of fresh, organic herbs, such as mint, sage, basil, rosemary, orange peels or ginger root, into the wine bottle. Use a bamboo skewer or the handle of a wooden spoon to poke them down below the neck of the bottle, then use a funnel to pour wine from your glass back into the bottle leaving just enough room to plug the cork back in. I find that I always have a little extra, which I sip as my reward for a job well done. Cap your wine and chill it in the fridge at least overnight and preferably for several days to allow the flavors to develop.
To serve, decant the wine through a mesh sieve to catch any herby bits leftover. Garnish with fruit or flowers for a real standout.
Recipes to Inspire You
There's no right or wrong way to make a herbal wine, so feel free to experiment with different combinations. Here are a few favorites to get you started:
May Wine: This German tradition uses dried sweet woodruff to infuse Riesling with a vanilla flavor. Add sliced strawberries for sweetness and garnish with the tiny, white woodruff flowers for a traditional spring punch.
Lavender White: Lavender wine is definitely a thing. You can make your own with just a single sprig of lavender in the white wine of your choice (careful here: a little goes a long way!). Garnish with a fresh sprig for aroma.
Rosy Rosé: Try adding highly fragrant rose petals to a rosé for your infusion. Garnish with rose petals and a plump raspberry for a sweet treat.
Amazin’ Deglazin': Add rosemary and sage to your leftover white wines and store the mixture in the fridge until the next time you have a pan that needs deglazing. The French call the leftover residue from pan searing “the fond.” I call it concentrated yumminess. Pour this herbal mixture into your pan, simmer and reduce on medium heat until it thickens. Finish with salt and pepper and serve as a sauce over your finished dish. This is ideal for poultry and pork.
(Amazing photo courtesy of Sharon Garofalow at Cupcakes and Cutlery)