What’s the secret to a successful Labor Day celebration? Tasty libations. This year, spice things up at your final summer soirée by swapping your signature sangria with erdbeerbowle—a German wine punch made with strawberries, white wine, sparkling wine, lemon and sugar.
Very fashionable in Germany during the 1950s and 1960s, the drink is undergoing a revival for home entertaining. Its creation is said to be inspired by May wine (also known as Maiwein or Waldmeisterbowle), the centuries-old German beverage made with white wine, sekt and sweet woodruff. The word, bowle, was borrowed from the English “bowl,” since the punch was popular among 18th-century English nobility.
While the drink is typically made with strawberries (erdbeer in German), you can opt for other fruits like raspberries, apricots, pineapples, peaches or watermelon. In Germany, white wines used in the punch vary by region. In Franconia, a wine region in Bavaria, Silvaner and Müller-Thurgau are the go-to wines. In Germany’s southernmost wine region, Baden, near Heidelberg and Freiburg, Pinot Blanc (Weissburgunder) and Pinot Gris (Grauburgunder) are the favored erdbeerbowle varities.
“The choice of a wine depends on the fruits you use,” says Ernst Büscher of the German Wine Institute. “If you prefer it sweet, use a sweet rosé or white wine so you will need less sugar. Use a sekt made from Riesling, which has a fruity acidity, and the bowle gets delightfully fresh.”
½ cup of sugar
8 cups strawberries, hulled and halved
1 lemon, halved
1 (750-ml) bottle of white wine
1 (750-ml) bottle of sparkling wine
Lemon verbena or lemon balm, for garnish
Sprinkle the sugar on the strawberries in a bowl. Juice the lemon over the strawberries, then zest the lemon, adding half of the zest to the bowl. Mix lightly, cover and refrigerate for 2–3 hours.
Remove the strawberries and place into a larger punch bowl. Set aside the strawberry juice. Pour just enough white wine into the bowl to cover the strawberries, then refrigerate for another 2 hours. Before serving, add the strawberry juice, sparkling wine and the remainder of the white wine into the bowl. Garnish with lemon verbena or lemon balm. Makes 20 5-ounce servings.