A Honey Of A Wine | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

A Honey Of A Wine

A Honey Of A Wine

Maine Mead Works' Honeymaker Dry variety, made from 100 percent wildflower honey.

Back in the old country, mead used to be a traditional High Holiday beverage.

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On Rosh Hashanah, honey plays a significant role in the holiday bill of fare: honey on challah, honey on apples, perhaps a honeybraised brisket, and of course honey cakes. Once upon a time that menu would also have included mead (honey wine). In places like Poland, Russia, Lithuania and Belarus — where kosher wine was an expensive commodity — there was a very common custom of serving mead for the holidays. 

Until very recently mead has been a rare beverage in the United States, but in the last few years it has been gaining popularity. New meaderies are opening frequently, and according to statistics from the American Mead Makers Association, U.S. sales of mead from 2012 to 2013 increased 130 percent. As kashrut poses little challenges for the mead maker, a few of these meaderies have started to produce under kosher supervision. 

Ben Alexander is the mead maker of Maine Mead Works, which recently started producing under the supervision of the Star-K (it had previously been under the supervision of a local rabbi). He says that he first learned about mead in 2007 from his wife’s grandfather, Gerald Cope, who grew up in a household that made its own. Later that year Cope and Alexander helped found Maine Mead Work. Alexander said they decided to seek kosher supervision because they believed that it “would be a good product to offer the kosher market.” 

Maine Mead Works produces four different meads that are available in stores in New Jersey and Connecticut, and which will be distributed in New York starting in November. I recently tasted all four, and any one of them would be a pleasant addition to your holiday table. 

As with all of the meads I tasted, the Honeymaker Dry Mead was made from 100 percent wildflower honey, utilizing a continuous fermentation system. Medium bodied, with a dark-straw-toamber color, it has a fragrant nose of honey, with notes of citrus herbs and spice. Honey and spice dominate the front of the palate, while a rich earthiness takes over mid-palate and runs through the finish. Well balanced, with nice acidity, this would make for a good aperitif. 

Score B/B+ ($15.97. Available at Wine Chateau, 85 Central Ave., Metuchen, N.J., [800] 946-3190.) 

The Honeymaker Semi-Sweet Mead has a slightly darker color than the Dry Mead, and this medium-tofull bodied mead has a somewhat muted nose of honey with a hint of spice. While honey dominates the flavor, look for notes of candied citrus, and an intriguing ryebread- like element on the finish. Although pleasant, this mead does not seem to be wholly balanced. 

Score B ($15.99. Available at Super Wine Warehouse, 42 E. 30th St., Paterson, N.J., [973] 684-2337.)  

Flavored with English lavender, the Honeymaker Lavender Mead is dark-straw colored and was the sweetest in the tasting. The bouquet is redolent of honey and lavender, with just a hint of orange blossoms. The flavor is creamy, with tastes of honey and lavender, notes of oak and citrus and just a hint of cinnamon on the finish. This mead would be a lovely digestif. 

Score B+ ($15.97. Available at Wine Chateau, 85 Central Ave., Metuchen, N.J., [800] 946-3190.) 

The Honeymaker Blueberry Mead is crisp, semi-dry and refreshing; it is medium bodied, ruby colored and was made with blueberries that were added during the latter stages of fermentation. The bouquet, which is faint, is dominated by honey notes. However, the flavor is dominated by blueberries with a note of orange rind, and has a light, honeyed finish. This was the most wine-like mead in the tasting, and would be a good accompaniment for a cold fruit soup, citrusy salad or citrus-flavored fish dish. 

Score B+ ($17.99. Available at Super Wine Warehouse, 42 E. 30th St., Paterson, N.J., [973] 684-2337.)  

Alexander says that his meads are best when drunk within two years of release. He also says that mead oxidizes much more slowly than wine, and that open bottles, kept in a refrigerator, will remain drinkable for at least a week, if not for a few months. Always drink mead chilled. 

This Rosh HaShanah why not revive an ancient custom and add a bottle of mead to your holiday table? 

Please note: Meads are scored on an ‘A’-‘F’ scale where ‘A’ is excellent, ‘B’ is good, ‘C’ is flawed, ‘D’ is very flawed, and ‘F’ is undrinkable. Prices listed reflect the price at the retailer mentioned.


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