mead vs wine

Mead vs. Wine: What Are The Differences?

mead vs wine

What Are The Differences Between Mead and Wine

Among fermented – rather than distilled – beverages of an adult nature, those who don’t like beer or cider can find themselves torn between mead vs. wine. The latter is certainly much more common in the typical grocery store…for now…but the former has its own distinctive appeal.

What sets them apart?

Well, for starters, one is made with grapes and the other is made with honey. However, wine generally is only made with grapes whereas meads can incorporate a number of other ingredients. What else should a person know? Well, there are definitely a few things.

Wine History vs. Mead History

Wine history and mead history are both long, as both have been enjoyed in cultures ancient and modern. Both drinks are held to have originated prior to civilization by accidental fermentation by wild yeasts.

Mead history, however, is truly global as wine drinks are consumed on every continent and have been for thousands of years. Grape wine, however, was mostly confined to the Mediterranean (both Africa and Europe) and the Near East.

Wine vs. Mead: Basic Ingredients

The basic ingredients are certainly an aspect of the differences of wine vs. mead. Both are relatively simple, even though making quality examples of each take a good amount of artistry.

Wine, most commonly, is made with a must of crushed fruit – sometimes by hand/foot or by mechanical macerating – combined with a bit of sugar, some water, and yeast. The pulp is strained and the juice fermented, stored and eventually bottled and drank. You can make wine by using a different fruit as well; strawberry, chokecherry, plum and dandelions wines are all popular non-grape variants.

Note, however, that wine differs from cider in that cider is pressed, and only the juice used rather than a pulp of the macerated fruit. Cider also uses a different form of yeast.

Mead, on the other hand, is often little more than honey, water, and yeast. Since honey contains all the necessary sugar for fermentation, you don’t need much more. Sometimes sugar is added to aid fermentation, but again it isn’t strictly needed.

Wine Varietals Require Wine Grapes

Montana Wine Grapes
Another aspect of mead vs. wine is how each is classified. Wine varietals – of which there are hundreds – are determined by the constituent wine grapes, which are different than the grapes you find at the grocery store. Concord grapes make a great snack, but they also make terrible wine.

Regarding wine, the varietal determines the type, the color and also the flavor. Red wine is made with the skins of the grape while white wines are skinned before pulping.

Merlot grapes make a soft, balanced, fruity red wine that may lack the depth of other varieties but pleases most palates. Pinot Grigio, a.k.a. Pinot Gris is a dry, crisp white wine that some love – especially when chilled – but others find too tart. Pinot noir, a red wine varietal of the pinot grapes, when correctly grown (it is notoriously temperamental) produces a dark, earthy and complex wine that some revere above all others and other people curse.

Mead, however, is usually classified by ingredients but also by sugar content. Sweet and semi-sweet meads can have added sugars and dry meads lack in sweetness much like dry white wines.

Wine Blends Are An Art; Mead Blends Are Almost Nonexistent

Another difference is that most wines are wine blends, including those made with wine made from only a single varietal of grape.


It’s a lot like making a blended Scotch whiskey. The blender takes multiple vintages (barrels of a single year’s run of wine) and comes up with a combination of them. Wines of multiple ages are combined; some may be close to 10 years old (or older) and others are practically new. Other wine blends – commonly called table wines – are blends of multiple varietals and vintages.

Only single estate wines are made from a single year of grapes, like a single malt Scotch.

Mead, however, typically isn’t blended. The production run goes in the bottle.

Types Of Mead Depend On Ingredient

The various types of mead are classified by ingredient rather than the varietal of fermentable material. Additional ingredients, such as fruit juices, hops, spices and so on also determine the type of mead. A cyser, for instance, has apple juice added to it and a pyment has wine added to the mead. A melomel has raspberry juice added to the mead, and so on.

Granted, there are some wines that are made with additional ingredients. Fortified wines – such as port or sweet Madeiras and sherry – have additional alcohol added (in the form of neutral spirits) as well as added sugar. Champagne, prosecco, and spumante are sparkling wines, made by secondary fermentation in the bottle; the carbon dioxide produced by that process diffuses into the liquid.

Then there are mulled wines, which have savory mulling spices added to the bottle. As it turns out, there is also mulled mead! It’s a very popular winter drink, as mulled wine is typically served warm or hot.

There Is No Mead Market Which Is Beneficial

A benefit in the differences of mead vs. wine that tilts in favor of the honeyed drink is that there is little to no mead market the way there is a wine market. This means you can actually get quality mead at reasonable prices.

Wine, on the hand, has become quite the collectible. The finest wines are barely, if at all, available to anyone other than collectors and the incredibly wealthy. Nearly anyone, however, can obtain mead of incredible quality without fear of price inflation that comes with a commodity being collectible because of its mere cost of acquisition.

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