Meet and Make Mead: An Introduction to Honey Wine

December 18, 2012

Any good winemaker expands their horizons to something other than your basic white wine or red wine.  One direction in which to expand your knowledge is in the making of mead. I guess the first question you might ask is “What is Mead?”  Mead is purely and simply a combination of yeast, water and honey and, for that reason, it is sometimes known as “Honey Wine”.

It goes through the same process as you would follow for making wine:

•    Make the must
•    Allow the must to ferment
•    Rack & bottle

The history of mead dates back thousands of years with different variations and names originating from many different countries and civilizations.  The table below gives you an idea of the extent of this variation:

Country or Civilization Name of Mead and/or Honey Wine
Australia Ngarlu
Brazil Mel
Bulgaria Med
Czechoslovakia Medovina
Denmark Mjød
England Meodu
Estonia Mõdu
Ethiopia T’ej
Finland Sima / Hunaja
France Chouchen / Hydromel
Germany Medu / Met / Honig
Greece Ydromeli
Holland Mede
Italy Idromel
Japan Hatchi Mitzu
Latvia Medus
Lithuania Medus / Midus
Mayan Balche
Norway Mjød / Honning
Poland Miòd
Portugal Hidromel
Russia Medovukha / Mjod
Spain Aguamiel / Miel
Sweden Mjöd / Honung
Ukraine Med
Wales Meddeglyn / Myddyglyn / Mel

Fancy a taster recipe to get you started? Here you go:

Mead8 cups honey
32 cups water
(2) 1/4-ounce packets yeast

With a fermentation vessel to fit and the appropriate airlock, you can make a start.

1.    In a large mixing bowl, combine the water and honey together, stirring until the honey has completely dissolved within the water.

2.    Add the contents of your yeast packets and stir once more.

3.    It’s time to let the must sit for awhile at room temperature, ensuring that it is completely untouched, for approximately four to seven days.  Make sure that you have not fitted a lid as you need to allow oxygen in at this point in order for the must to start fermenting properly.

4.    When the mixture has started to bubble, move it to your fermentation vessel.

5.    Add the required amount of water to bring your fermentation vessel up to the fill lines and fit your airlock.

6.    It’s time to let it rest again – this time for three to four weeks.  Don’t touch it – it is quite happy on its own.

7.    Once you have reached the three-week mark, you should take a sample of your mead (once a week) until it has reached the sweetness level you prefer.

8.    In order to bottle your mead, you need to filter it using coffee filters (or something similar) into a container large enough to hold the contents.

9.    It’s now time to rack your mead into bottles – beer bottles are an excellent size for this, however feel free to use whatever bottles you wish (just make sure they are sterilized properly).

10.    Using a funnel, pour the mead into your bottles and cap accordingly.

11.    If you have the room in your refrigerator, enjoy your mead chilled.

In one fell swoop, you have now expanded your winemaking repertoire to include making mead as well.

Cynthia CoscoAbout our Guest Contributor:

Cynthia Cosco is the founder of Passaggio Wines and is an award-winning winemaker educated in Napa. Through Make Tasty Wine she offers her course of free Inside Secrets to making wine at home. To get it click here.

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