What did the honey wine say to your mouth?
Pleased to MEAD you! We're here to answer all your questions about the fermented apiary treat known as honey wine - and deliver it to your door in 60 minutes or less!
September 16, 2021
When someone says the words "honey wine" to you, what's the first thing that pops into your head? Is it a bearded and kilted Renaissance Faire enthusiast going on and on about what an important beverage it was in Ye Olden Tymes? Or is it a mustachioed and flanneled farm-to-table hipster going on and on about free range bees and casually tossing around words like rhodomel? What the heck is honey wine, why is it sometimes called mead, and is it worth it to pick up a bottle?
Mead is having a bit of a moment here in the United States, and the number of meaderies (yes, that's a word) has grown significantly in the past ten years or so. Despite a growth in the number or products, many people don't know what it is, or at least haven't had a chance to try it. We did the research, gentle readers, to help you understand whether you'll end up BEEwitched by this historic alcoholic beverage, or just end up feeling stung. OK...we've gotten the puns out of our system - we'll BEEHIVE ourselves now as we discuss this nectar of the gods.
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What is honey wine?
It's pretty much exactly what it sounds like - fermented honey, water and yeast. Purists say honey wine can only contain those three ingredients, but there are some styles that have other flavorings added to them, including fruits and spices, or hops and even grains. Think raspberry. cinnamon, lavender, apples or cloves - there are even varieties made with spicy peppers to give them a kick.
Honey wine is categorized separately from other alcoholic brews, landing on the palate somewhere between beer and grape wine (it even tends to look like white wine), and depending on the variety it often appeals to people who like hard cider. It's made all over the world and is believed to be the most ancient of boozy beverages.
Is honey wine the same thing as mead?
In short, mead is honey wine, but not all honey wines are mead. Mead is a name often associated with Viking honey wine, but there are a variety of styles from around the world including Ethiopia's Tej. In general, you’re OK calling it mead though.
What does honey wine taste like?
Much like grape wines, the flavor depends on how it's made and what's in it. Everything from the ABV (Alcohol by Volume), type of yeast, water ratio, aging and the addition of spices or endless other ingredients can affect it. If you're afraid it will be too sweet, look for brands with higher ABVs or a larger amount of water added to the mix which tends to land on the dryer end of the flavor spectrum. In general, expect a well-made honey wine to taste similar to a glass of white wine.
What is the alcohol by volume of mead and honey wine?
- Hydromel: 3.5-7.5% ABV
- Standard Mead: 7.5-14% ABV
- Session Mead: Less than 10% ABV
- Sack Mead: 14-18% ABV
- Dessert Honey Wines: 14-22% ABV
- Honey Liqueurs/Fortified Mead: ABV as high as 60% or more
Why is it so expensive?
Mostly because honey itself is so expensive, and quite a bit is required for each batch of the wine. The water is also important and can be expensive as well, if something like an exotic spring water is used in the fermentation.
Are mead and honey wines gluten free?
In general, honey wine is a gluten free beverage, but always make sure to check the ingredients and label since some are flavored with grains or processed in facilities that also process grains.