The favourite German maxim: “Trust is good but control is better” is being applied with particular vigour at Berlin’s Christmas markets. The latest item to come under scrutiny is Glühwein, the omnipresent mulled wine which is the hallmark of every Yuletide fair. Peter Scheib, Berlin’s official wine inspector, recently returned from a Christmas market mulled wine sampling tour and concluded: “At times I am glad that I can spit out this stuff like mouthwash at the dentist.”
He said that more than one in 10 Glühwein sellers heated their mulled wine to above the strict 70 degrees Celsius limit. He found them guilty of dishing out a brownish inferior-tasting drink which lacked punch because most of the alcohol had been boiled off. Yet overheating is not the gravest offence.
According to Mr Scheib, the sale of ready-made supermarket mulled wine, which comes in 2 litre bottles, is the ultimate sin. Not only does the stuff taste synthetic, anyone who buys it is almost certainly being ripped off. Supermarket Glühwein costs a little as €1 per bottle, but at Christmas markets it is on sale for €3.50 a mug.
Mr Scheib advises drinkers to check with stall-holders they are buying the real thing. According to the EU’s guidelines the real Glühwein is as follows: “An aromatised drink obtained exclusively from red or white wine and flavoured mainly with cinnamon and or cloves”. The alcohol content must range from 7 to 14.5 per cent and failure to comply to such standards can result in a €1,000 fine.