The ancestor of all fermented drinks, once consumed by kings and aristocrats, honey wine is reputed to be the giver of life, wisdom, courage and strength. The mere thought of it conjures up streams of flowing, golden, treacle-like syrup begging to be sipped.
Romance aside, classic mead is a fermented beverage created from honey and water. Master Beekeeper William Roman is the third generation Beekeeper and Mead Master for Rosewood Estate Winery in Beamsville.
He explains that his style emphasizes pure mead flavours. Take his Harvest Gold: it’s a fantastic clear, clean mead, light in flavours and in body, yet holds true character of style with a hint of caramelized honey and marshmallow on the finish. “I love it with spicy dishes like samosas and curries,” says Roman. Like wine, meads range from dry to off-dry, and from dessert sweet to icewine sweet. Roman crafts a unique icewine sweet mead called Ambrosia. It’s barrel-aged for three years, rich in colour, high in alcohol (16%) and it offers a bold flavour that can stand up to a full, rich pâté spread over brioche toast.
Rosewood is also a winery, so it makes sense that grape juice and honey would partner in the vat. These meads are called Pyment and each year Roman makes a different kind. Their Mead Noir is made using Pinot Noir and the Mead Blanc is made with Gewurztraminer.
When it comes to mead, there is a subcategory that indicates its various ingredients. For example, Pyment Mead is pure mead mixed with grape juice. When mixed with maple syrup it becomes Acerglyn Mead, and adding fruit or fruit juice creates a mixture called Melomel Mead.
Blackcurrant, raspberry, blueberry and cranberry Melomel Mead can be found at Munroe Honey in Alvinston. Run by fourth generation beekeeping brothers John and Davis Bryans, John was making honey wine for himself long before deciding to go commercial. “I make a mean mead,” says John, when describing his medium bodied meads on the sweeter side. “To go dry is fine but you’re really fighting nature. If you ferment off the sugars you have very little flavours in the product. Staying sweeter means you can enjoy a fuller, more flavourful mead.”
When you add malt to pure mead, it’s called Braggot Mead. Chris Marconi, lead brewer at Trafalgar Ales and Meads in Oakville explains that “we mash the malt, pull out the wort (sugar water), blend it with honey and ferment it.” Marconi crafts light to medium meads with a nice play of sweetness that are very malt forward and delicious. “They’re not too thin, but not a thick, hearty, chewy mead either,” he explains. While the meads from the Munroe and Rosewood are still (not sparkling) meads, Trafalgar’s meads are similar to Short Meads, slightly spritzy and meant to be enjoyed young. This distinctive character offers a lively play and lighter texture on the palate. “Technically it’s carbonated lighter than beer,” explains Marconi.
Whereas Rosewood and Munroe meads are sold in wine bottles, insinuating that they are best enjoyed with food. Trafalgar meads are sold in beer-sized bottles suggesting a more casual, fun, anytime drink experience. All three meaderies have retail stores for tastings and purchases, with fully trained staff to answer all your mead questions. As I put this story to bed, I’m sipping a chilled glass of off-dry mead and nibbling on my freshly made vanilla pizzelles. The combination is divine!
Lynn Ogryzlo is Ontario’s Local Food Ambassador, food writer and award winning author. She can be reached at www.lynnogryzlo.com.