Perhaps one of the oldest rituals in human culture, the celebration and observance of the Winter Solstice has given rise to scores of traditions and practices, as people have sought to define their place in the universe during this time of transition. Whatever your traditions are this Holiday Season, it can be agreed that these cultural institutions and traditions help connect us to each other and to the Earth. We would like to share some of these interesting customs originating from several of our Winery Partner’s home countries.
Naughty or Nice
No country celebrates the Winter Holiday season quite like Austria. The country’s deep traditions express everything from sacred reverence to whimsical terror. Christmas time in Austria would not be complete without a mention of Krampus and the more familiar to Americans, St. Nicholas. Two sides of the same coin, Krampus and St. Nicholas represents humankind’s recognition of our dual nature: good and bad. Krampus, known by various names throughout central Europe, is often depicted as the horned, goat-legged scourge of naughty children. Likely originating from earlier Pagan legends melded with the Christian concept of St. Nicholas, Krampus stalks the night, brandishing chains and birch twigs to whip naughty kids into shape before dragging them off to the underworld. Following the purge of Krampusnacht, his “good cop” alter ego, St. Nicholas, appears to delight the good children with sweets and gifts.
In the Market For Dessert
Another fixture of the Austrian holiday season is the Christmas market, a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages. Springing up at the beginning of Advent in major cities and small towns alike, these markets offer their communities a chance to gather and celebrate. Part open-air market, part extended street festival, an Austrian Christmas market showcases seasonal crafts, music, food, and drink. A highlight for many attendees is a cup of warm mulled wine, or Glühwein, often served with a shot of brandy for an extra warming kick.
Heavily influenced by its historical connections to Germanic peoples, Christmas Markets are also observed in the French region of Alsace. But one delicious custom takes the proverbial cake. The bûche de Noël is a modern Alsatian interpretation of the Yule Log. In a delightfully French twist on the ancient tradition, Alsatians no longer actually burn the sacred wood meant as a symbol of the Earth’s return to the Sun’s light, but rather indulge in a decadent log-shaped cake dessert.
Crafting her own Holiday tradition this year, winzerin Ingrid Groiss delivered homemade Christmas Linzer Tortes to all of the good boys and girls this year. Shaped in the form of the Vineyard Hare, ubiquitous on her labels, Ingrid has been spreading the good cheer of the season with these tasty treats (not to mention her fabulous Gemischter Satz.) Follow the links below to make your own, and pick up a bottle of her Gemischter Satz to share for the holidays!
Linzer Torte Recipe (Pro tip from Ingrid: use spelt flour.)
Varieties: Chardonnay, Grüner Veltliner, Welschriesling, Müller Thurgau, Rotgipfler, Riesling, Zierfandler, and others.
Vineyard: Calcareous Conglomerate
Analysis: Alcohol: 12.5%, Acid: 6.3 g/L, Sugar: 3.2 g/L
Ward off Michael Malat’s childhood bane, Krampus, with an effervescent glass of Austrian Sekt!
Varieties: 80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir
Vineyard: Primary rock, löss, and Danube gravel
Analysis: Alcohol: 12.5%, Acid: 6.3 g/L, Sugar: 1.8 g/L
Wash down your bûche de Noël in true Alsatian style with a liter bottle of Riesling from our friends at Domaine Bernhard & Riebel!
Variety: 100% Riesling
Vineyard: Löss, gravel
Analysis: Alcohol: 13.0%, Acid: 5.3 g/L, Sugar: 5.6 g/L
Prost, Santé, Cheers!
No matter what your holiday traditions may be, the end of the year marks a time for family, togetherness, and reflection. As we look toward the new year, take a moment to appreciate our loved ones and the cherished customs that connect us. Happiest of holidays from all of us at Circo Vino!