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Making and Giving May Wine

There are literally dozens of recipes for May Wine, with even more variations on the theme. Some call for fresh Sweet Woodruff (not an easy commodity to find if you don’t have any growing already); other recipes use dried woodruff leaves. In both cases, the Riesling is infused with sweet woodruff. Some recipes use varying amounts of sweeteners like sugar and honey. A good many recipes call for the addition of fruits, everything from fresh strawberries to pineapple chunks. All this fruit overpowers the key note of Sweet Woodruff. In fact such recipes seem more like a German version of Sangria (perish the thought) than classic May wine.

Here is my favorite version, using woodruff tea bags. It is not overly sweet or fruity and would make an excellent gift.

I suggest A.J Adam Dhroner Hofberg Riesling Spatlese (around 30.00 dollars) or the less expensive Affentaler Riesling (under 15.00) for the recipe. Both are characteristically floral, and honeyed. The finish is soft allowing the Woodruff notes to emerge clearly on the palate.


May Sun Wine

A recipe for Infused May Wine



  • 1 bottle of Rhine wine, preferably a Riesling
  • 4 Sweet Woodruff teabags (available at health food stores and online)
  • 6 sugar cubes
  • 1 large Valencia Orange



  1. Empty the wine into a large glass container with a wide mouth and a tight fitting lid or cover. Soak the empty bottle in soapy water to remove the labels. Rinse and dry the bottle and set it aside.
  2. Suspend the teabags in the wine hanging the label and string over the side of the container.
  3. Rub the sugar cubes over the peel of the orange until they are saturated with the oil from the orange and add them to the wine.
  4. Use a sharp paring knife or swivel peeler to remove just the outer peel from the orange, leaving the white pith behind. Add the peel to the container and seal it tightly. Set the container in a sunny spot for 24 hours. Strain the wine back into the bottle. Cork the bottle with a new stopper or trim the old cork so it will fit tightly.


Wrapping It Up

I can think of all sorts of ways to make this a very special gift. Start by making  a great looking label. You can download images of herbs, meadows, maypole dancers or medieval damsels from blogs like The Graphics Fairy to incorporate on your custom label. (Be sure to date the wine and specify that it should be refrigerated.)

Instead of a traditional label, you could cut several leafy shapes from green card stock, construction paper, or velum. Write serving and storage instructions on one leaf the date on another and a gift message on a third. Apply these inscribed leaves along with several plain ones to the bottle using double face adhesive tape.

Wrap the labeled or embellished bottle in a large sheet of clear cellophane (available online and at craft stores like Michaels or Jo-Ann’s Fabrics) twisting it tightly over the top of the bottle. Hold the cellophane securely in place with a wire twist tie, which should be covered with ribbon or raffia. A package of Sweet Woodruff seeds (found at most garden centers) would also make a nice gift tag.

If you want to make a grander gesture, in honor of spring you could certainly put the wrapped bottle in a new canvas garden tote (easily found at gardening centers or online at sites like Gardeners.com) along with up to four simple bistro glasses (I love the small “bee” glasses at Sur la Table which are also available online).

A small wooden crate or flower box would make a charming presentation when filled with a bottle of May Wine and some small Sweet Woodruff plants ready for the garden.

For a gift with more immediate gratification in mind, put an unlabeled, unwrapped bottle of May Wine in a large galvanized watering can (available at most hardware stores) with plenty of ice. Attach a seed packet gift tag. Be prepared to accept the inevitable invitation to stay for a drink, and by all means make a toast to spring, here at long last.

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