On Twitter, some international winelovers and I followed the discoveries of a friend who went skiing in Austria and discovered all kinds of interesting mixes with Prosecco: with elderflower syrup (Hugo), with Red Bull, with Pimms.
I checked with my son, who used to tend bar in our home town and also works for a cocktail shaker company. Sure, he knew those mixes, and told me they were popular. And still, a lot of winelovers are horrified by the idea of mixing wine with anything.
But the longer I think about it, the more I am convinced that there is nothing new under the sun. Mixing wine with other ingredients to get different flavors is as old as the road to Rome (as the expression goes in Dutch). And not only to mask bad wines or keep it better preserved. I am convinced of that.
In ancient Rome, wine was mixed with honey, herbs, spices, resin, sea water. Further back, in prehistoric times, all over the grape growing world, and even beyond, in Scandinavia, wine was mixed with herbs, honey, spices and grain. Professor Patrick McGovern’s discovery of prehistoric grog was hot news a few years ago.
From the mulsum and conditum of the Romans, all kinds of spiced wines developed, with hypocras as most well-known result. This highly esteemed mix of white or red wine with cloves, cinnamon, ginger and other spices, and sweetened with honey or sugar, was a very important drink from the Middle Ages until the 18th century. A formal meal was ended with a beaker of hypocras, accompanied with sweet dishes. At courts all over Europe, hypocras fountains have been known to exist.
From hypocras in the 19th century came bishop and cardinal. From those spiced wines with oranges and spices our mulled wines, Glühwein, vin chaud etc.. are descendants.
And then there was Maitrank, May wine: a mix of white wine with Asperula odorata. Until World War II, Maitrank or ‘meiwijn’ was available as a ready-made drink in groceries and through wine merchants in the Netherlands.
We also have Vermout, with all its herbs. We have mixes with Martini, we have Aperol Spritz, Bellini, Kir Royal etc… etc… etc…
Personally, I am a great fan of Mari. This delicious ready-made mix of Riesling, maté and elderflower syrup has its origin in the Mosel, and was developed by Jan Matthias Klein of Weingut Staffelter Hof together with some friends. Mari Original was followed by Mari Ginger and recently, Mari Winter. This last version is made with Riesling, mate, spices and red currant syrup. Another relative of hypocras, I would say.
But, in a lot of places there is still that attitude of: you don’t mix wine. Well, to me, a good mix is always welcome. As long as it is not too sweet and good ingredients are used, why not? Let’s mix! Life is long enough to drink wine pure at other times.