So what's mead like?

G. R. Gayre writes in Wassail! In Mazers Of Mead, "The bouquet of mead brings it near to that group of French white wines represented by the Moselles, although at times it comes near to the drier Sauternes. Like those wines it can range from a dry sweet to a dry wine ... Unless very old there is always a good body in mead, and its bouquet arises from the essences of the flowers, of which the original honey is composed...". pg 154

Trying to describe what mead is like is similar to describing what wine or beer is like. There are such a variety of ways to make it, no single description is adequate. I've had sparkling meads that a friend described as "like Champagne". (He then said that he doesn't like Champagne and poured himself a different one.) A strong blackberry mead had the aroma and taste of some ports I've had and enjoyed. David describes his Chocolate Mead as "orgasmic", and it may be considering that everything he's made has been exceptionally good. Regardless, if it tastes overwhelmingly like honey, something is not right.

The best way to find out what it is like is to try it from someone who has been making it for a long time and has the patience to make it the way it should be. There is a winery in the UK producing what is labeled "Meade". A quick reading of the label reveals that it is not mead, but a grape wine with honey added as a flavoring. This strikes me as odd as the same winery does in fact produce authentic meads. Should you not know anyone that brews mead, there is still hope. I have heard good things first-hand about the Redstone Meadery in Boulder, Colorado, and I hope to be able to try some soon. They have some stellar bottles to boot!

Mead has also been compared to Tokaji (Tokaj, Tokay) from the Tokay region of Hungary. It's been published even that the Tokaji is a mere imitation of mead as the mead preceded the Tokaji. I have to disagree with this though as the Tokaji process was arrived at more by chance than by intention to produce a wine of a certain characteristic. The production of wine in many areas in Europe (just like all other activities) were frequently disrupted by Hun invasion. During one such period of invasion, the monasteries in Hungary were left with unharvested grapes still on the vine that had acquired a type of mold. They fermented them anyway (it was that or do without!) and found it to be good. This particualiar region of the world is the only region where this mold and grape interact like this, even though other wineries from outside the region have mistakenly used the name Tokay or one of its spellings for an ordinary sweet wine. If you're allergic to honey, I highly recommend a Tokaji. I recommend one even if you're not allergic to honey.