Although Glühwein, or mulled wine, is most associated with the Christmas Markets across Germany today, its origins don't necessarily lie here. The hot sweet, spiced alcoholic drink has a long history in Europe and we know the Romans loved to drink it in winter, believing it had certain health benefits. It could be that the Romans took it all over Europe with them as they widened their empire, or maybe it was already popular in other countries too. What we do know is, no one does Christmas quite like Germany and there's nowhere better to sip some mulled wine at a Christmas market. But mulled wine isn't always the same, and different areas will serve it slightly differently.
There are some subtle differences in the Glühwein you'll taste from town to town in Germany. It is all mulled wine, but it's made with slightly different wines and slightly different ingredients in some towns and cities. In Hanover, it's called Glogi and isn't unlike the Scandinavian Glogg. It's made with a fruitier wine, not as dry as the usual Glühwein, though it doesn't feature the nuts and dried fruit in the bottom of the glass that a Swedish Glogg does. A railways tour to Hanover stops off at the town of Quedlinburg, where you can compare the mulled wine to Glogi.
One of the oldest Christmas markets in the world, and one of the most popular, the Nuremberg markets serve a very particular kind of Glühwein. An escorted railway tour will give you 4 nights in Nuremberg, plenty of time to enjoy the Christmas markets and sample some of Nuremberg's Glühwein. Because in Nuremberg that's what you'll be drinking, Nuremberg's very own Glühwein. It's made with a blueberry based wine, with pimento - a cherry pepper. It's quite distinctive and is now so popular in the city it's been bottled and is sold all over town.
One of the smaller German Christmas markets and one of the most authentic and traditional, in Rüdesheim the mulled wine is of a superior quality than those you often find in the big cities. Here, it's made with pinot noir, spices, orange and lemon, and warmed up to create a boozy delight. Sometimes mulled wines are spice heavy, which is often to disguise the cheaper wine used, but not here. In Rüdesheim a high quality wine makes a higher quality Glühwein, and you can really taste it. A Rhine River Cruise at this time of year is the best way to experience the market in the evening.
At the Christmas markets in Austria mulled wine is usually made with white wine instead of the traditional red. Weisser Glühwein is made with more orange segments and orange peel, sometimes even orange liqueur, to better compliment the flavour of the white wine. It's usually made with Reisling, or local Austrian wines, and is a sweet, almost syrupy, mulled wine that's very different to the traditional red.