On the blog I have talked about medieval spiced wine before. My boyfriend and I have decided that we want to start going to medieval reenactment markeds as spice wine merchants. To do this we of course had to get the clothing and gear, more about that in another post. We are going to our first marked in little under two weeks.
For the last month I have done experiments to source the best (cheap) wine to use for the spiced wines.
Wine history – choosing the right wine
We have been looking for a white and a red wine to use for our medieval spiced wine. We knew that the best white wine to use would be a young, sweet German wine, but for the red wine we had no idea – other than the fact that it would also have to be a young wine.
In the middle ages and up until the early modern period wine was stored in big wooden wine casks (or barrels). Which is perfect for flavouring and maturing wine but really unfortunate for long-term storage and really poor for transportation. What would happen is that the wine would turn vinegary really quickly. Over time that resulted in a medieval preference for younger wines. In Denmark most of (at least the white) wine imported was from Germany. We also knew that the wine would have to be relatively cheap to keep cost done so we would have a bit of a profit on the finished product.
So in last month we brought a selection of five red and five white wines. I have had them sitting in the kitchen until a few weeks ago waiting for me to have time to do something with them. I finally had the time last week.
Adapting the recipe and getting the proportions right
First I did a batch of the red wine – hypocras. Each wine was made in a big glass jar separately with the same mix of spices: I measured out all the spices, heated a bit of each bottle with the sugar to dissolve it (separately) measured out the portion of the spices into jar for each wine, so they were all the same (or as close to that you get with whole spices). Then we added the wine and let it sit overnight, strained it and put it into bottles. We did the same with the white wine (Lutendranck) a few days later.
The testing sessions
Then we did a little wine tasting, just my hubby and me the night of the straining. We tasted quite small amounts and rated each of the wine. The hubby toke careful notes as he is known to do throughout the process.
This weekend we had two of our friends over for dinner. We cooked a few medieval dishes (more on that later) and tasted the wine afterwards. They helped us taste the wine and everyone toke notes and made comments the taste, to help us determine the best wine for both the hypocras and the lutendranck. It turned out that one of the red wines was quite different and I will use that to make my own recipe based on the sources to create a third option. In the end we ended up with ranked lists of both wine types that we could take with us when buying the bulk wine for the marked.
I still need to work with the lutendranck recipe as I am not quite happy with the balance of sugar and wine and the spice mix is also still a bit off, but I am sure I will get there before the weekend, where we will make the wine in bulk.
Edit 5/5: Today I experimented with the sugar, cardamom and grains of paradise levels. I also worked on figuring out if the cardamom should be ground up or not.
Edit: 9/5: We had another wine tasting with my parents’ as test subjects and they helped us work out which version of the recipe that worked best. I have added it below the images.
- 1 bottle red wine
- 9 teaspoons cinnamon 22 g
- 6 teaspoons ginger 15 g
- 3 teaspoons galanga 8 g
- sugar to taste - other recipes shows about 100 g
It is a good idea to heat a cup of wine with the sugar to dissolve it. Mix it with the rest of the mix.
Mix the spices and the wine.
Let it sit (over night)
Strain the spices out of the wine
Bottle the wine. The wine is drinkable right away, but I think it taste better a few days after it is bottled, as the taste becomes rounded and less sharp.
The wine keeps well in a closed bottle.
Use whole cinnamon sticks. You can bash them up a little bit. I use fresh galanga and ginger, but it should properly really be dried roots - as a danish doctor would properly not be able to get a hold of the fresh roots. Good East Asian stores tend to have galanga,
- 1 bottle of wine red or white
- 90 grams sugar
- 7 grams cardamom seeds
- 1 gram dried ginger or thin slices of fresh ginger
- 6 grams cinnamon bark
- 1 gram nutmeg
- 1,5 grams grains of paradis may be substituted for more cardamom
If at all possible use whole spices. Otherwise they are a pain to get out of the wine again - seriously it's so annoying. If you are using ground spices, put them in a tea bag.
Mix about one fifth of the wine with the sugar and spices in a pot.
Bring it all to a boil.
Take it off the stove and let it sit for five minutes.
Pour it though a sive to strain the spices off.
Pour in the rest of the wine and strain it all though a damp cloth. A few times to get rid of the bits of spices.
I personally leave it till the next day with the spices in - because I like it spicier. But the recipe does not say to do so
Serve it hot or cold. Though cold would be seen as more sophisticated.
Source: Anna Weckerin: En artig oc meget nyttelig Kogebog, København 1648 (1599)