What Is May Wine?

Happy May! Right? It’s the first of the month, and despite the best efforts of Bone Thugz n’ Harmony, we still like to pretend the start of any new month has special promise. We’ll finally quit smoking, or betting on the ponies, or following Scott Disick on Instagram. Whatever it is, basically we won’t make any of the mistakes of the month prior, and we’ll finally have abs.

What better way to celebrate this deluded sense of hope and optimism than with a wine named for the magic of May? So pour yourself a glass of May wine! Or, yeah, figure out just what the hell it is first, then pour.

Surprise, surprise—the delicate little drink is of German origin, and it’s typically prepared and served on May Day as part of the May Pole celebration. Since around the 16th Century, a May Pole or Maibaum (literally “May tree,” think tennenbaum) has been decorated and erected in Germany villages on May 1st as a celebration of spring. (Apparently dudes would also erect a mini May pole in front of the houses of girls they liked the night before, and—naturally—the girls would respond by pouring rice on the front steps of their favorite fellas.)

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Tree and starch fertility rituals aside, for now. We want the May wine that goes with it. At its most basic, May wine is a light white wine—typically a young Riesling from the previous vintage—that’s flavored with woodruff, AKA sweet woodruff. And the plant is aptly named, probably no better springtime floral mascot: nectar-sweet, growing in adorable little tufts, blooming around the woods in May and June.

Most May wines are garnished with some kind of fruit and served punch-style. Some recipes also call for adding sparkling wine or even brandy to fortify the punch. And yes, there are recipes for make-your-own-May-wine, as well as bottles of the stuff (the bottles tend to be the more basic white wine with sweet woodruff style). But it’s easy enough to make, assuming you can get your hands on some fresh or dried woodruff (it really is a lovely plant) or some woodruff syrup.

Whether or not you choose to erect a maypole or chuck some rice in front of your recent Tinder date’s house is up to you.