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The Right Choice Between Wine vs Mead: Getting to Know Their Distinct Quality & Tastes

Sweet honey meadee ready to be served

Last Updated: July 13, 2024

Is it sometimes confusing to figure out how one type of alcoholic beverage differs from another? The same thing goes with most people's confusion between wine vs mead. When choosing between two beverages, it helps to know their distinct characteristics.


Let's go into further detail and explore the difference between mead and wine. Discover the unique qualities of each drink and choose which one you prefer.

Both wine and mead have their benefits, but the better one of the two depends on your needs and preferences.

Main Differences Between Mead Vs Wine

pair of wine glasses

The main differences between mead vs wine are:

  • Wine fermentation uses grapes, whereas mead fermentation combines water and honey.
  • Wines can only last a few days upon opening, whereas mead can last a month.
  • Wines can contain 48 calories, whereas mead can have 300 calories.

Getting To Know Mead

Mead History

Many people have enjoyed drinking mead wine or honey wine as far back as the dark ages.

It's a honey-based fermented beverage that today's generation might still associate with the Vikings or King Arthur's knights at the round table.

Honey wine was a popular drink at weddings during the 18th century for its excellent properties that enhance fertility, as believed by many. They even call mead the nectar of the gods, saying it was heaven-sent dews accumulated by bees.

Greeks and many others at that time utilized mead in their religious ceremonies, linking it with power and immortality.

Moreover, you will not have difficulty encountering mead on several occasions in classic literature. Such classic pieces of literature include The Canterbury Tales, The Miller's Tale, Beowulf, and more.

The Rigveda, an ancient Hindu text dating from the seventeenth century BC, is likely the first text to mention mead. After that, mead has been a well-known drink throughout the Old World's three continents. The fame had been widespread in Ancient Greece and Celtic.

Mead Production

Mead is a fermented honey beverage preceding both beer and wine. It's also well-known to many people as the "honey wine." Nevertheless, the argument continues: is it beer or wine?

As simple as it may sound, mead is mead, just as cider is cider.

Based on the recommendation of the American Mead Makers Association, mead has its distinct category, not to confuse it with another beer or wine. A traditional mead only contains fermented water and honey.

Mead becomes "melomels" once you ferment it with fruits or spices to get a more complex flavor, and a spiced mead becomes "metheglins." Consequently, its smell and taste profile combine mild spiciness and delightful fruitiness.

Relatively, adding beer or malt to your mead makes it a "braggot," one of mead's sub-types, similar to "melomels." In Spain and France, they dilute a "melomel" and call it hydromel, while some age it and call it the "Great Mead."

A mead maker combines honey with water to induce fermentation and make it more yeast-friendly. Adding some yeast nutrients allows it to complete healthy fermentation. As a result of adding yeast to the mixture of water and honey, it becomes an alcoholic drink.

Mead Taste Profile

The different types of honey used as the main ingredient can affect a mead's flavor profile.

Unlike grapes or grains, honey has a broader variety of flavors coming from almost any flower available. The bees will drink on these plants' nectar, digest pollen, and unload it in the honeycomb.

The number of flowering plants that bees fertilize and the changing seasons is why honey can acquire versatile flavors and scents. Soil nutrients, rain, bee fertilization, and more also contribute to how honey tastes.

In addition to the honey flavor compounds, yeast fermentation, the aging process, and production techniques are also variables. Meads sometimes have additives (herb, spice, fruit juice, etc.) that contribute to their flavors. Adding herbs to sweet mead made it more delectable.

When you think about honey without sweetness, you can appreciate the flavors in traditional mead. It should have clean, floral notes but a more potent taste like white wine.

Mead Shelf Life

Another confusion among drinkers is how long a mead could last.

There is quite a distinction in a mead's lifespan depending on its type.

Some meads are light and have the right balance allowing you to serve them at any time. It has a shorter lifespan; hence, it's best to consume it immediately once opened.

Relatively, a sweet mead can also be dry and with higher alcohol content. Both light and classic meads are good, but the latter is the most fitting choice when it comes to a long-lasting mead. A traditional mead can last you for a few months if you store it well after opening.

If a mead has that bitter-like overpowering smell or looks cloudy, it may no longer be good to drink. In addition to that nasty smell and look, you'd know if mead is no longer fit for drinking if it lacks the fullness and freshness of flavor.

Mead's Health Benefits

In early England, physicians prescribed mead infused with herbs and spices to treat digestive disorders.

With honey as mead's key ingredient, you can expect your drink also to have rich antioxidant and antimicrobic components.

Many would even consider mead to have more health benefits than wine and beer. It is technically free of gluten; however, that is dependent on the additives included. You might want to check labels first to be sure.

In essence, there are no clinically-approved health benefits yet when you choose to drink mead. It's just that people have referred to it as a healing tonic throughout history. Not to mention that it contains all-natural ingredients, and mead is also rich in probiotics.

Even if your mead includes some flavors, an authentic one will always have this sweet-strong blend. Mead's ABV (alcohol by volume) will be around 4% to 20%, so best to ensure moderate consumption even when you enjoy drinking mead or any alcoholic beverage.

Getting To Know Wine

bottles of wines

Wine History

France, Spain, and Italy will undoubtedly be the first to cross everyone else's minds in terms of wine and wine production.

However, the history of wine goes way back in time before the French wine even existed.

Some would claim that the oldest winery was Ancient Armenia, while others say that China produced wine first in 7000 BC. Yet, there's so much more to its history than what we already know. In addition to Armenia and China, the first winemakers worldwide include Egypt and Iran.

Among the ancestral wine regions of the Old World are the Mediterranean, Europe, and the Mediterranean. During this era is when wine production started developing.

Eventually, winemaking started making its way to the New World in 1492. It ultimately spread like wildfire across South America. Argentina, Australia, Chile, New Zealand, Canada, and South Africa are well-known wine regions during this period.

During the New World era, producers started innovating wine using the Vitis vinifera grape variety. Fast forward to the twentieth century, where producers ferment wine with yeast.

Likewise, winemakers introduced corks and screw tops during this time, although most would still prefer their wines in corks.

But the most significant breakthrough in wine innovation happened in the twenty-first century when producers started the micro-oxygenation process as part of making wine.

Wine Production

Making wine begins with growing and harvesting quality wine grapes.

When a winemaker turns grapes into wine, a process known as vinification, there will be numerous choices. There's this option to do sparkling wine, still table wine, aromatized wine, or fortified wine.

The vinification process starts by crushing the grapes and extracting the juice. Pre-fermentation treatment follows to eliminate stray pulps and anything that could give the wine an off-flavor.

There are several ways in which sulfur plays a part in the production of wine. In addition to serving as an antiseptic, sulfur dioxide also acts as an antioxidant. Lastly, the fermentation process comes next, where the grape juice extract turns into wine.

Wine Taste Profile

The experience of drinking wine and tasting wine is not that different from eating dinner and trying to redo a chef's recipe ingredient by ingredient.

There are many reasons why wines taste differently.

The first is due to the grape variety. Climate, soil type, and viticulture process also affect grape quality and flavor. The best way to describe a wine to someone else is through its sweetness, acidity, tannin, and body.

It is crucial to remove all distractions, especially comments from others when tasting wine, as it is too easy to be misled. Remember that every product is only as good as its ingredients.

The method of growing grapes impacts the quality of the wine. It is not only the location of the vines that determines whether they will grow well; the vine treatment on the field matters too.

Wine Shelf Life

A wine's taste and longevity vary with its behavior at different temperatures.

Keeping wine that needs aging in the right conditions is vital to maintain quality.

Microbiological decay is most prevalent in sweet-tasting and low-alcohol wines, whereas drier wines containing more alcohol and are less sweet have a longer shelf life.

Wine Health Benefits

Generally speaking, a healthy individual can benefit from moderate consumption of wine, that's, at least two drinks daily. Studies have shown that reasonable consumption of red wine may help prevent cancer and heart disease.

Moreover, it can improve cholesterol levels and maintain a healthy heart. Since wine is also full of antioxidants, it can reverse the damage caused by oxidative stress. Wine can also reduce inflammation.
Taste Test: One wine to try out is one from Malbec. Read our post on a variation of this brand -- Trapiche Malbec Review.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use active dry yeast when making mead?

Yes, you can experiment with bread yeast but it may not assure your desired outcome. You can test different types of bread yeast in multiple batches of mead to determine which will work best. Wine yeast can also be good for dry meads since it ferments moderately.

But it might help you decide if you know that yeast is an essential ingredient of mead. Therefore, choosing the right mead yeast is of paramount importance. You need to consider yeast choices and mead recipe more thoroughly, especially if you're brewing mead for the first time.

If you're interested in how to make a dry yeast starter for mead, watch this video:

Could mead be more potent than wine?

Yes, meads can be more potent in alcohol content since they contain natural yeast. The distilled ones are the most powerful since distillation extracts more alcohol.

Aside from the key ingredient, another notable difference between mead and wine is their alcohol content. Wines typically have lower alcohol content, while meads can have ABV ranging from 6% to 20%, depending on fermentation.

Where can you get a good mead today?

Mead is currently experiencing a surge in demand. Many years ago, you could only probably find it in Renaissance fairs. Nowadays, you could check them out in online stores or artisanal bars.

You might want to try Oliver Winery for a wide selection of meads and wines alike if you're interested. Redstone Meadery offers exceptional tasting rooms you might want to visit as well. Let's not forget how Enlightenment Wines has an excellent reputation in mead production.

Final Thoughts

In summary, understanding the difference between mead and wine will show you how each alcoholic beverage is unique. One thing you can't miss about the difference between wine and mead is the key ingredients. It's grapes for the wine and honey for the mead.

Therefore, you end up with two alcoholic beverages similar in their bodies and alcohol content but utterly different in their flavors. So, if you're one with unwavering curiosity about mead, you can at least be sure that it's worth trying.

Just go with your instinct and trust your taste buds. Hopefully, this article will serve as your handy guide and help you choose your next alcoholic beverage with more confidence.

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