Note: this post was written on May 1, 2020

At Michler’s and Kentucky Native Café we celebrate May Day with a party, live music and big punch bowls filled with May Wine. Normally, instead of writing this blog post today, I would be running around preparing four our annual May Day Festival. My favorite part of the day is preparing the batch of May Wine.  The defining characteristic of May Wine (Maiwein or Maibowle in German) is the intense aroma of Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum). Needless to say, the festivities are cancelled this year, but I still plan to venture out to the back café garden to make a small batch of May Wine to celebrate the day.  

If you wish to join me in spirit, you only need three ingredients:

  • A bottle of sweet(ish) white wine, at the café we use a medium sweet Riesling Kabinett from Mosel, Germany.
  • Sparking Wine, we use a Prosecco
  • Sweet Woodruff - we do know a certain local greenhouse that grows makes a beautiful ground cover along a shady path.  

Making May Wine is so simple it is really a non-recipe. The key to achieving the aroma is to trim a small handful of Sweet Woodruff tips and let the herb clippings sit out in the sun - you will notice the dramatic change in smell as it wilts. Sweet Woodruff contains a chemical called coumarin* which has a sweet fragrance that is freed by enzymatic action during the drying process. Add the wilted Sweet Woodruff to a bottle of white wine and let that steep at least two hours, or even overnight. Right before serving, mix the bottle of white wine with a bottle of Prosecco. Add a few strawberries for fun (optional) and enjoy.

*Here is a note of caution, while naturally occurring, coumarin is an herbal drug. It occurs in Sweet Woodruff in low doses.  The German government regulates that no more than 3g of Sweet Woodruff may be used per liter of May Wine.

Robin Michler