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Honey Wine vs. Mead: Is there a Difference?

If you are simply exploring the mysterious, tasty world of mead, there are many questions you could ask yourself. One of the most frequently asked questions is: what is the difference between honey wine and mead?

The short answer is that both terms are perfectly fine. Honey wine is mead. Which term you apply mainly depends on your choice. You might realize that mead is the most commonly used term with most products, and this is primarily because it helps to differentiate beer (fermented from grain), mead (fermented from honey), and regular wines (fermented from fruits). However, the terms honey wine and mead are often considered interchangeable.

Even so, there are historical nuances that play a significant role in the variation of terms that you see today.

What Is the Difference Between Honey Wine and Mead?

This article will generally cover everything you wish to understand when it comes to honey wine and mead – which will be your new favorite alcoholic beverage! Although wine and mead certainly overlap, the difference is recognizable in terms of availability, food pairings, and flavors.

So, what exactly is mead? First things first, there are some basics to cover for those who are not aware. Mead is a fermented drink and is also interchangeably known as ambrosia and honey wine. It is created from simple ingredients: honey, yeast, and water.

With the nickname “Drink of the Gods,” mead shares some similarities and differences with different alcoholic beverages, such as wine, spiked cider, and beer.

As those drinks are named, however, mead also possesses its unique categorization. Its name, “Drink of the Gods,” is deducted from the ancient belief that all bees were some kind of messengers for the gods. More so, bees have been linked to heaven and even predict the future.

To some people, bees and their honey are associated heavily with fortune and good luck, thus the strong religious and mythological history of mead.

How Long Has Mead Been Around?

Mead is a famous alcoholic beverage, and it has a long history. For a long time now, mead has had many applications. It is regarded as one of the most ancient but still consumed beverages. Although it isn’t entirely possible to trace the actual origin date, mead has been stated as far back as 4,000 years ago.

Egypt, Greece, India, and even China all reference mead. Some other nations where mead was also of utmost significance include Norway, Germany, and Celtic regions, where this beverage was associated with mythology. For example, in Celtic mythology, there’s a river of mead that passes along Paradise.

If you’d like a more modern example, think about the word honeymoon. Essentially, the word is derived from a long time ago (almost in the fifth century) when you could keep your calendars according to the moon cycles.

Newlyweds had this tradition of drinking mead on the first moon after being married. Of course, mead is made with honey, thus the name association. Although there are numerous ways that mead has penetrated popular cultures throughout the world, the fact remains that it is, even up to now, both a symbolic and popular drink.

How Does Wine’s History Compare?

You might already know that wine has an extended and storied history. It has also made a huge impact when it comes to shaping and representing different cultures throughout the world. According to historians, the earliest winery may be dated back as far as 4,000 B.C. in Armenia, which is a site that was recently discovered in 2007.

Something like wine, or wine itself, is believed to have been utilized in ancient Egyptian ceremonies and later made its way into Israel and some Middle East parts as far back as 1,200 B.C.

Moreover, Rome and Greece used wine for a wide range of applications and got to the Americas by Spanish missionaries. You must understand that wine was not initially regarded as a celebratory drink. It was drunk commonly among a wide range of social statuses and classes. For example, in Rome, wine was regarded as a daily beverage.

Eventually, wine vineyards turned to represent one’s well-being and fortune and, in some situations, were regarded as a blessing from God.

How It’s Made

Now that you know the history of mead, let’s look into how it’s produced. Just like most alcoholic beverages, mead is a fermented beverage. Water is first infused into honey to dilute the thick liquid. Afterward, yeast breaks down the sugars in the honey into alcohol. After this primary fermentation is done, the mead is transferred to a different fermentation vessel for more clarification.

Although it sounds simple, mead – just like wine or craft beer – may be very complex. Like wine grapes, honey offers a huge variety of flavor profiles based on the flower pollen used. Although the thought of a honey wine might brew up the idea of sweetness, mead may be brewed in a variety of styles, such as dry, semi-sweet, and sparkling.

Mead is closer to wine as opposed to beer when it comes to alcohol content, which generally ranges from 8-20% ABV. Meads can also age for many years – just like high-end wines – creating new layers of complexity.

Honey Wine and Mead: Is There a Legal Difference?

The primary reason for the honey wine/ mead confusion in the U.S. has much to do with a small legal technicality with a lasting effect. The Alcohol & Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (the TTB) is the federal alcohol regulator in the U.S.

Many alcoholic beverages require their labels to be TTB-approved. And for a long while, the TTB’s labeling division used the phrase “honey wine” rather than “mead.” Until 2016, it was legally required to state honey on the label, and it wasn’t allowed to be known as mead! This actually caused even more confusion. Fortunately, the TTB has issued guidance that allows “mead” and “honey wine” to be used interchangeably on labels, thanks to the work of the American Mead Makers Association.

Simply put, although most people and brands prefer the term mead, it does not mean that you have to call it mead. Regardless of what you call it, it is an ancient-old beverage with an incredible history and a wide culinary footprint to try out and enjoy.

Is Mead wine healthier? 

There is a myth that traditional mead can give humans immortality, probably another reason for calling it the drink of gods. Even though you cannot become an immortal god after having mead, the manufacturers do claim that there are many health benefits associated with this alcoholic beverage made of fermented honey. 

Mead promotes good health. It is healthier than wine and beer because of the main ingredient that is used for making mead- Honey. 

Honey has been associated with many health benefits. Honey is a natural source of antioxidants and has antimicrobial properties too. Antioxidants help your skin stay young. Skin specialists are obsessed with antioxidants. Additionally, honey also keeps your gut health in check. 

But, it is important to note that despite the fact that honey has many more health advantages, there isn’t enough evidence to say if it has the same benefits after fermentation.

Furthermore, mead has a larger sugar concentration than red wine. The sugar in the honey, as well as the sugar in the carbs, add to its overall sugar content.

The Taste 

You are undoubtedly most curious about the taste. Since mead is made using honey, most people believe it will taste very sweet, like maple syrup. However, the beauty of mead is that there is no specific taste (and no one has reported having disliked its distinctive tastes). The taste differs based on the kind of honey and the mead fermentation process used. Honey gets its taste from the flower it was extracted from; hence if the flower is different, that taste will be slightly different too. 

We do have sweet mead, but there is also a semi-sweet version that has a hint of bitterness to it. Mead makers might also add berries and other fruits or spices to give it a distinct taste. 

Does mead last longer? 

It certainly does. Mead has a high amount of sugar which acts as a great preservative. Red or white wine could last you for only about 3-5 days after opening. However, great mead lasts for up to a month. You don’t even need to refrigerate mead after opening. Just keep it in the dark place and away from heat. 

Does mead belong to the category of wine or beer? 

It has its distinct category. It has many similarities to wine and beer, but it isn’t entirely wine or beer. 

Wine and mead are fermented at the same temperature. Moreover, the yeast used in mead production is also used to make wine. However, where they go their separate ways are its taste. Wine is bitter, while mead can be sweet or semi-sweet. 

The similarity between beer and mead is that they are both made by fermenting sugar. That is the only common thing they both have; other than that, they are completely different alcoholic beverages. 

A Honey Wine Mead

Rather than searching the internet trying to find out whether there is a mead vs. honey wine discussion or if there is an actual difference, why don’t you find it out yourself? You can check out this recipe for a honey wine mead! You just need a simple brewing kit, and you can enjoy this honey wine mead recipe and even differentiate it from mead, note any similarities if there are. Hidden Legend Winery offers a wide selection of meads that you could compare and contrast. You can get in the debate yourself and inform them if you notice any truth to the mead and honey wine discussion.

Apart from being an art and a centuries-old craft, brewing is an excellent practice to pick up and participate in the conversation. Maybe you will get a new distinction to help answer the question of what is the difference between honey wine and mead. Regardless of which side you find yourself on, it will truly be a tasteful journey. After all, who would not want to compare and contrast different drinks?