This has taken two silver medals so far this season (Merrimack valley Homebrew Competition and Meadlennium in Florida) and just helped me win the coveted title at the SCA event known as the Baronial Brewers Smackdown at Highland Foorde’s Highland River Melees. I wrote this rather hurriedly, and I’m afraid it shows.
Started August 2, 2009 5 gallons
3 46oz cans Alexander’s Sun Country Emerald Riesling grape juice (sulfited at vineyard)
6 lbs Laviland Farm honey (local)
5-6 lbs. Laviland Farm sour cherries, pitted
Lalvin D-47 dry white wine yeast
Mixed honey in warm water to liquefy. Mixed that with juice to 3 gallons. SG 1.116. Took some of that mixture to start yeast.
Added starter to mixed honey and grape juice and topped off to 5 gallons.
After 1 month racked onto cherries and realized that, for calculating ABV, adding fruit to secondary makes gravity readings fairly pointless. Nonetheless, after a month the gravity had dropped to 1.010; my last reading was October 2011, two years later, and the gravity was 1.000.
After a year and a half, it was unpleasantly dry, so I added 2.5 lbs honey (note does not say which kind) and one bag of frozen cherries.
Next time: leave the pits in the cherries! It needs the touch of tannin. I expected a rosier color from the cherries, but then this is half wine.
Pyments, or honeyed wines, go back in Western history as far as you would like to go. Properly speaking, a pyment is honey and wine grape juice fermented together, or wine with honey added, either one. Wyeast labs likes to call it “grape melomel”. In many instances, the flavors balance perfectly (I did not find this so when I added fruit). Dr. Patrick McGovern reports finding chemical traces of honeyed wine in conical beakers found at a ritual area on the island of Crete (McGovern 2003, pp. 265-268). Funerary beverages in King Midas’ tomb (which may instead be the tomb of his father, King Gordius) also held mixed beverages, honey and wine and honey, wine, and barley beer mixed together. The tomb dates to 740-700 BC. (ibid, pp. 281-287). Thutmose III received honeyed wine as a tribute from the chiefs of ‘Rotenou’ (Younger 1966, p. 47). Pliny wrote of ‘honey wine’ as having 30 pints of grape must and 6 pints of honey (Pliny, 77AD, Boox XIV section XI, p. 243). Apicius has recipes for rosatum and violatum that include flower petals, wine, and honey (Renfrow, p. 175and p. 185). I have seen references to a medieval mead blending honey with verjuice, a kind of cooked-down grape juice, which I have not found a source for yet. There are countless recipes for raisin wine through the ages, though that is not the same thing.
McGovern, Patrick E. Ancient Wine. 2003. Princeton and Oxford.
Pliny the Elder, Natural History. Circa 77AD. The Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.
Renfrow, Cindy. A Sip Through Time. 1997. Self published, USA.
Younger, William. Gods, Men, and Wine. 1966. The Wine and Food Society, London.
Wyeast Labs Style Guide. http://www.wyeastlab.com/rw_styledetails.cfm?ID=204. Accessed 5/29/2012.