Wine infused desserts, meats and cocktails attain a sensory experience that gives the food a new level of flavour. But beyond mashing up food with wine, some enthusiasts are infusing wine with food. Fresh fruits and savoury herbs are going into their favourite vino to create signature wines for their homes.
Medium of medicine
There’s nothing like sipping a glass of full-bodied wine infused with warming herbs and spices on a cold winter’s night. Herbal bitters loaded with compounds reluctant to surrender their medicinal properties to water take better to alcohol.
“For some compounds found in herbs, in fact alcohol is a more effective medium than water. This is why herbal tinctures are an effective method of healing with herbs,” says wine expert Sumedh Singh Mandla. In a herbal wine infusion, wine also serves to stimulate the bloodstream, having an overall warming, soothing impact on the body.
Old Italian practice
All fans of infused wines have heard of the Barolo Chinato, that was first produced in Italy’s Piedmont region in the late 19th century. Made from the base of Barolo, said to be the king of wines, it’s famed for its medicinal purposes.
Up to 21 other herbs and spices, including China Calissaya bark (hence the wine’s name Chinato), rhubarb roots, gentian, orange peels, cloves and cardamom are added to the mix.
This infused wine is usually consumed as an after-dinner drink, either as a dessert wine or a digestif.
by Sumedh Singh Mandla
Choose your wine: Higher the sugar and alcohol content, the better, as these factors make the phytochemicals in the herbs more bioavailable in your body. Red or white table wines are good choices, as are port wine, brandy or cognac.
An ounce for a pint: Start with an ounce of fresh herb or half-ounce dried herb to each pint of wine.
Store in a cool, dark place: Place herbs in a non-metallic container with a tight-fitting lid, then pour the wine over the herbs. Cap and store in a cool, dark place for seven to 10 days. Give the container a shake every day for about two weeks.
New bottle: Strain out the herbs and store the infused wine in a fresh bottle. Store in dark glass bottles, in cool, dark places. Used wine jars with twisted tops are fine too, and in case you are using ones without twisted tops, be sure to get fresh corks.
Maturing time: Infused wines mature and mellow with time. Three to six months is good. Fruit infusions should age for one to six months or even longer.
Good for an year: Your herbal wine should last up to 12 months. Drink in small amounts during the winter. The day it tastes or smells like vinegar, it’s time to make a new batch.