- Wine and meal pairings
- To Discover
Let’s talk about liquor
ABC's of wine and liquor
- Champagne and sparkling wines
- Port and fortified wines
- Dessert wines
- Origine Québec
- Ateliers SAQ
- The art of fine dining
- Taste tags
- Fine spirits taste tags
- ABC's of wine and liquor
- Espace cocktail
- SAQ Magazine: The spirit of sharing
The principal ingredient in mead, honey, is as old as history itself. Over the centuries, its catalogue of virtues has only grown. Today, Québec’s artisan distillers have taken this heritage and run with it, offering a range of delicious honey-based products.
Honey wines and meads
Honey wines, better known as meads, are made cold to preserve all the compounds and flavours of honey. Served cold, these local products are a refreshing introduction to another facet of the Québec terroir.
Like the honey it’s made from, mead comes with its own share of legends. Some believed that honey wine had fortifying, stimulating and aphrodisiac powers, hence the tradition in northern Europe for young newlyweds to drink honey wine for the first moon after their union, a custom that gave us the word “honeymoon.”
Nectar of the gods
The Greeks called the drink ambrosia—meaning immortal—and claimed it to be the drink of the gods of Olympus. The Gauls believed it gave them strength and cheer. And who can forget the Druid Getafix’s legendary magic potion, one of whose ingredients was purported to be mead?
Like a wine producer blending different varieties of grape, the mead producer has a range of honey varieties at their disposal to develop products with a colour, aromas and flavours that are unique. Every variety of honey has its own visual, olfactory and taste qualities, ones directly influenced by the flowers the bees gather their nectar from (apple trees, raspberry bushes, blueberry bushes, etc.).
The producer’s choice of honey depends on the type of mead they want to make. There are three main types:
|1. Medium-dry meads||These are usually aromatic meads with light and refreshing flavours.|
|2. Sweet meads||This type of mead is often stronger than the semi-dry version. Some are sweet and mellow, while others have a richness and gustatory power that linger long on the tongue.|
|3. Flavoured meads||These meads taste of the fruits added during fermentation. Among the most popular are raspberries, blueberries, cherries and cranberries.|
Depending on the type of mead you’re looking for, the different honeys used in its making will influence the colour, aromas and taste of the product. The distiller’s role is to ensure that each stage of production only enhances the quality of the end product.
Principal steps in mead making
|1. Collecting honey from the hives||Each variety of honey is processed separately.|
|2. Blending the honey with water||The mead maker blends different types of honey and then adds a certain quantity of water to make the honey more liquid prior to fermentation, producing what is known as honey must. Water quality also plays an essential role because of its chemical components (mineral salts, etc.). Honey is a product with relatively high acidity and high sugar content; in some cases its acidity may have to be adjusted.|
|3. Fermentation||Once the honey must has the proper density, yeasts are added to trigger fermentation, during which the sugar in the honey must is converted to alcohol and carbon dioxide. Fermentation takes place at a temperature between 20° and 30 °C and lasts two to five weeks. During fermentation, mead producers may add aromatic substances derived from plants (up to 20 percent by volume).|
|4. Processing and filtration||This step varies from producer to producer. Some mead producers filter their mead to clarify it and help ensure its stability after bottling.|
Did you know?
Honey is very sweet, but not all the sugars in the honey can be converted to alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Some sugars are not fermentable and cannot be converted directly. By way of comparison, it takes 22.5 g/l of honey to produce 1 percent of alcohol in mead, but only 17 g/l of sugar to produce 1 percent of alcohol in wine.