Mead – the drink of myth, legend, and the ancients
If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, you are probably familiar with the oath of a lord or lady promising their sworn swordsman ‘meat and mead at their table’. This makes mead seem as ubiquitous as water or bread; and although Game of Thrones is fantasy, mead in ancient times was in fact commonplace.
What is mead?
Mead, or honey wine, has been brewed for centuries all around the world.
From Ethiopia to Finland, each culture has its own word for this ancient libation and numerous colourful myths revolving around the beverage. Recipes to make mead have been discovered from Roman times, and earthen pots with traces of honey and alcohol have been uncovered in the Middle East and North Africa – almost certainly signifying the presence of mead. Albeit simple, the mix of honey, spring water, and exposure to air (as yeast was still undiscovered) was the magic formula for mead.
Ever-present in mythology, the Norse myth of the “Mead of Poetry” weaves a tale that if said mead was consumed by mortals, it would turn them into a scholar and inspire them with endless knowledge and poetry.
Today: Rosewood Estates
We’re very lucky that this time-honoured drink still exists today! Rosewood Estates Winery is a mead producer in Niagara, crewed by a line of beekeepers from Ukraine that goes back generations. William is part of the newest generation; it was his grandfather who hoped to open up a meadery upon emigrating to Canada. After multiple applications to the Liquor Control Board, his grandfather settled on upon up a vineyard at a premium site on the Niagara Escarpment. Rosewood Estates has become a highly respected, award-winning winery in the region for years. They make wonderful Riesling and Chardonnay, and an interesting single-varietal Sémillon for whites. Their Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot make for a unique selection of reds. It wasn’t till recent years that their request to brew mead became a reality, but we are so excited that it has!
So what’s the buzz?
At Rosewood,the beekeeping is committed to keeping a healthy bee population in Niagara, and beekeepers are happy to adopt and care for any hives that show up on people’s property. They take enough honey from the bee populations to produce mead and create scarcity so that they will optimize production in the hives, always leaving enough for colonies to feed upon and comfortably survive the winter. Bees are a bit lazy,and if a hive produces too much honey, a neighbouring hive may try to simply steal honey instead of making their own? The act of harvesting the honey has a positive, balancing effect.
Rosewood’s mead is as sweet and complex as honey itself, and makes a great alternative to port, ice wine, or other digestifs after a meal. In visiting the winery, you’ll learn that mead also makes for a great baking ingredient, a sweet sauce for cakes and ice creams, and can add a fun twist to your cocktails. Luckily, mead carries many of the health properties of honey, so it’s a guilt-free to addition to your diet.
We look forward to raising our glasses with you, as inspired by the Gods of Valhalla!
We offer specialty tours to Rosewood in which you can get up close and personal with the bees and see right inside the hive!
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You can also check out Rosewood Estates here at their website.