Mead

Ratings of mead and fruit wines I have tried.
personal, food, reviews
2012-05-022018-10-25 finished certainty: log importance: 0


I rarely drink alco­holic bev­er­ages. Alco­hol makes me sad and depressed, so any alco­holic bev­er­age I drink despite the alco­hol, and not because of. (The good thing about this is that I never need to worry about alco­holism, since in no sit­u­a­tion would I want to be more sad and depressed.) As well, alco­hol is expen­sive. It’s no sur­prise that I drink so much more —on a per-cup basis, it must be an order of mag­ni­tude or two cheap­er! And teas are usu­ally more tasty too.

As a kid, dur­ing some crab-eat­ing, my grand­fa­ther gave me Bud­weiser beer; I found it unspeak­ably awful. I still do, and only now grudg­ingly tol­er­ate arti­sanal beer. Whiskey tastes like oven clean­er. White wines are inof­fen­sive (and hence not worth drink­ing), while red wines often have an inter­est­ing fla­vor but with pun­ish­ing bit­ter­ness. Brandy is best used as fla­vor­ing in eggnog or hot choco­late. I have no opin­ion on vod­ka, and is just odd. was too can­dy-­like. I rather enjoyed the 2 s I’ve had, but it’s rare and expen­sive. The s are prob­a­bly some of my favorite wines.

Final­ly, I tried some , and that seems to be the stuff for me! It has a fringe-y rep­u­ta­tion thanks to Renais­sance Fair-­types1, but mead tastes good regard­less. The local liquor store had a black­cur­rant mead, which was dis­gust­ing, an Irish reg­u­lar mead which was good, and a reg­u­lar Amer­i­can mead, which was a lit­tle lower in qual­ity but still good.

Mead is not com­mon, though, and being alco­holic and sub­ject to count­less bur­den­some reg­u­la­tions, mead is also pretty hard to get. I spent many hours search­ing for mead sources, and the upshot was that essen­tially no mead seller ships to New York State. This meant that the ~30 inter­est­ing-look­ing meads on Vinoship­per.­com were use­less to me. I thought of send­ing them to my grand­par­ents in Mary­land since I occa­sion­ally vis­it, but of the 30, only 2 vari­eties ship to Mary­land! S&H dou­bled the price since they would ship sep­a­rate­ly! Well, that’s no good. I had heard of a local mead mak­er, the LI Mead­ery, so I turned eagerly to their web­site and learned… they closed a few months before after some­thing like a decade of busi­ness. Gosh darn it! This left me one last source: Earle Estates Mead­ery. So I ordered 10 meads and a wine from them for a total of $196.

Mead

Earle Estates Meadery

The full col­lec­tion cer­tainly looks tasty.

My first batch:

  • Tra­di­tional honey mead (★★★★☆)

    ’01 Com­mer­cial Mead Cham­pi­on, 5.0% RS. Sim­i­lar to a Late Har­vest Ries­ling. Pairs nicely with chick­en, fish, pork, Chi­ne­se, lasag­na, pas­ta, corn.

    Strong mead smell with sharp after­taste. Not that I’m com­plain­ing, I like the over­all mead fla­vor. Tasty.

    Earle Estates, tra­di­tional honey mead bot­tle
  • Cherry charisma (★☆☆☆☆)

    Gold Medal, 5.0% RS. 30% Cherry Wine, 70% Mead. Great with choco­late, lasagna.

    Light cherry fla­vor, not too sweet­—fla­vor is iden­ti­cal to how it smells. (I don’t know why that struck me, but it did.) Per­sis­tent after­taste. On fur­ther drink­ing, I’ve begun to recon­sider my impres­sion: it is too sweet when you are drink­ing more than a sip, and the cherry starts to taste more arti­fi­cial and less like a real cher­ry.

    Earle Estates, “Cherry charisma” mead
  • Straw­berry shad­ows (★★★★★)

    DOUBLE GOLD MEDAL, 6.0%RS. 30% Straw­berry Wine, 70% Mead. Good with sharp cheese or for dessert itself. Pairs with fruit and whipped cream.

    Imme­di­ate kick of alco­hol, gen­tle straw­berry taste—­sort of creamy? No after­taste. Tasty!

    Earle Estates, “Straw­berry shad­ows” mead
  • Black­berry blush (★★★☆☆)

    6.0%RS. 30% Black­berry Wine 70% Mead.

    Black­berry fla­vor is not very dis­tinct. Sort of a generic fruity mead fla­vor, with lit­tle after­taste.

    Earle Estates, “Black­berry blush” mead
  • Honey mead semi­-sweet (★★★☆☆)

    Sil­ver Medal, 8.0% RS. Light honey wine. Pairs well with fruit, cream and peanut but­ter desserts.

    The Con­tem­po­rary has a lighter fla­vor than the Tra­di­tion­al, dryer & not as sweet. Lesser after­taste. Over­all, there’s much less of an over­pow­er­ing “mead” fla­vor to it which makes it taste more like a white wine. One might describe it as a “tamed” mead.

    Earle Estates, Honey mead (semi-sweet)
  • Blue­berry bounty (★★★★★)

    Gold Medal, 7.0% RS. 45% Blue­berry Wine, 55% Honey Mead. Great with prime rib, any beef dish, dessert, or on its own.

    Sim­i­lar to the blue­berry wine, but both sweeter & sharp­er. The mead, no doubt. Tasty.

    Earle Estates, “Blue­berry bounty” mead
  • Black jewel (★★★★☆)

    Gold Medal, 8.0%RS. Blend Of 30% Black Rasp­berry Wine & 70% Honey Wine.

    Sweet, with no real alco­hol burn. Tastes like black­berry much more than rasp­ber­ry, lin­ger­ing after­taste & smell. Tasty.

    Earle Estates, “Black jewel” mead
  • Twin­kle mead (★★☆☆☆)

    100% HONEY WINE, OUR FIRST SPARKLING MEAD, Very light del­i­cate car­bon­a­tion. A true delight!!

    Did­n’t try this one in the ini­tial tast­ing—I decided to save it for some occa­sion since car­bon­ated bev­er­ages don’t keep well after open­ing. Months lat­er, I try it (after accu­mu­lat­ing some spare corks I could whit­tle down to fit) to per­son­ally cel­e­brate an accom­plish­ment, since I had run out of the other 2 bot­tles I had with me. It’s… OK. I would not say great. It strongly resem­bles the Con­tem­po­rary mead, but the fla­vor seems wors­ened by the car­bon­a­tion—and it is, if any­thing, too sweet.

    Earle Estates, “Twin­kle” mead
  • Pear mead (★★★☆☆)

    Dou­ble Gold, Best of Class, Best New York State Spe­cialty Wine at 2011 New York State Wine & Food Clas­sic., 5.0% RS. Chair­man’s Choice 2006—­CA, 2004 NYS Best Mead. 70% Pear Wine, 30% Mead. Pairs well with pork, chick­en, cheeses, fresh fruit.

    Sweet & sour simul­ta­ne­ously with an over­all sharp pear taste. (I mean “sharp” in the same way foxy-­tast­ing grapes are sharper than reg­u­lar grapes.) Def­i­nite after­taste. Not sure if I like it.

    Earle Estates, pear mead
  • Creamy apri­cot (★★★★☆)

    ’01 Com­mer­cial Mead Cham­pi­on, 5.0% RS. Sim­i­lar to a Late Har­vest Ries­ling. Pairs nicely with chick­en, fish, pork, Chi­ne­se, lasag­na, pas­ta, corn.

    Rel­a­tively dry with a light fla­vor and light after­taste. The apri­cot fla­vor is dom­i­nated by mead. Over­all, I was reminded of white wines.

    Earle Estates, “Creamy apri­cot mead”

For Christ­mas 2013, I was gifted another batch (3 new ones: Rasp­ber­ry, Cran­ber­ry, Starlight; 3 old: Straw­ber­ry, Black Jew­el, Con­tem­po­rary):

  • Rasp­berry Reflec­tion (★★★★☆)

    RS 6%- 30% Red Rasp­berry Wine, 70% Mead. Absolutely Deli­cious! Gold Medal 2013 Pacific Rim Wine Com­pe­ti­tion

    It smells sickly sweet, but the fla­vor is tart (much like fresh-picked rasp­ber­ries them­selves can be), and over­all quite tasty.

    Rasp­berry mead, 2013 bot­tle
  • Cruis­in’ Cran­berry (★★☆☆☆)

    Gold Medal, ’02 NYS Best spe­cialty Wine. 7.0% RS. Cranberry/Honey wine blend. Great with turkey & chick­en.

    I’m not a big fan of cran­ber­ries, but I hoped that I would be sur­prised. The fla­vor was weaker than ordi­nary cran­berry juice, and there were no twists or improve­ments.

    Cran­berry mead, 2013 bot­tle
  • Starlight Blush (★★★☆☆)

    Sil­ver Medal, 4.0% RS. Sim­i­lar to “Zin”, but fuller bod­ied. Pairs with cheese or noo­dle bakes, chili, meat­balls, mush­rooms.

    Oddly enough, nei­ther the Earle web­site nor the bot­tle describe what Starlight Blush actu­ally is. (Nor am I able to find out what “Zin” is—it does­n’t seem to appear on the web­site even check­ing back to 2006 in the Inter­net Archive.)

    Drink­ing it sheds lit­tle light. It’s clearly berry-based and has a bite almost like car­bon­a­tion, but the fla­vor does­n’t imme­di­ately jump out as a par­tic­u­lar berry. A blend? A com­bi­na­tion of blue­berry and rasp­berry might taste like this. (It’s sweeter than the Rasp­berry Reflec­tion, so I sus­pect there’s no rasp­berry wine in it.) Not bad but puz­zling.

    Earle Estates, “Starlight Blush” mead

Oliver Winery

  • Camelot Mead Honey Wine (★★★☆☆)

    This mead came as a gift from my aunt. I was quite sur­prised to taste it, as it did not resem­ble either of the Earle Estates straight meads (Tra­di­tional or Con­tem­po­rary). The imme­di­ate fla­vor is a pure honey fla­vor, pretty sweet, min­i­mal bite, and with lit­tle else until an alco­holic after­taste (it’s 10% alco­hol) shows up. On the fer­men­ta­tion spec­trum, I assume these aren’t allowed to go too long. I was­n’t sure whether I liked it, but the fla­vor grew on me (even if I still think that the 2 Ear­les were more inter­est­ing on their own).

    Camelot Mead, front/back

Carroll’s Mead

  • Car­rol­l’s Mead (★★☆☆☆)

    An 8% alco­hol NY mead branded for to the Renais­sance Fair crowd. True to the label’s descrip­tion as “sweet honey wine”, it is very sweet, only slightly gold­en, and has almost no bite. I found it bland and not really worth the $16 (price-­com­pet­i­tive with the much bet­ter Ear­les). I can’t blame the assis­tant at the BIN 201 store where I bought it—she did warn me that she found it mediocre & worse than the meads she made for her­self. But being so sweet and one-note, it might be good for peo­ple who have never tried any mead before, like peo­ple at a Renais­sance Fair.

Black Heath Meadery

In Williams­burg Vir­ginia in Decem­ber 2015, I heard that a local mead­ery, the Sil­ver Hand Mead­ery, had opened recent­ly. When I vis­it­ed, I learned that they had, in fact, opened so recently that they had not fin­ished their first batch of mead and I could see it bub­bling away in the giant white plas­tic inverted fun­nel-shaped tanks behind them. The titles sounded tasty but the meads would­n’t be done until Feb­ru­ary.

For­tu­nate­ly, they had on hand 3 meads from another Vir­ginia mead­ery also opened recent­ly, in March 2015 (I guess mead is now a trend?), the Black Heath Mead­ery, which they let me taste. The bot­tles, inci­den­tal­ly, are nicely designed, with attrac­tive labels and light hon­ey-­col­ored wax over the cork to con­tinue the bee theme.

  • Pas­si­flora (★★☆☆☆)

    “Pas­si­flora high­lights the vibrant fla­vors of pas­sion­fruit and hon­ey. It was pro­duced for warm sum­mer days and nights, yet pro­vides a refresh­ing taste of sum­mer any­time. Notes of man­go, cit­rus and melon” Overly sweet, and I was under­whelmed by the pas­sion­fruit. I did­n’t give it a sec­ond try.

  • Joy! (★★★☆☆)

    A hol­i­day spices themed mead (my batch, 1/293) “spiced with zest and juice from limes, lemons and oranges; vanilla bean; nut­meg; clove”. Some­what sweet. I dis­liked it on first taste, but as I tried it more, it sur­pris­ingly grew on me. By the end of the bot­tle, I was appre­ci­at­ing it, though it’d never be my favorite.

  • Red Razz (★★★★☆)

    Extremely dry, the Red Razz packs a major rasp­berry punch akin to Ear­le’s “Rasp­berry Reflec­tion” which I also enjoyed a great deal. The absence of sweet­ness makes it a star­tling con­trast to how rasp­berry is uni­ver­sally han­dled (as more sweet than rasp­ber­ry), but it’s not tart so much as a clear essence of rasp­berry fla­vor.

Silver Hand Meadery

By June 2016, Sil­ver Hand had started sell­ing its mead and I got my hands on some:

  • Scar­bor­ough Fair (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    “Honey Apple Orange Wine with Nat­ural Fla­vors and Spices”; “A walk through a fra­grant herb gar­den on a misty morn­ing. Scar­bor­ough Fair fea­tures del­i­cate honey with rose­mary and thyme, which com­bine to cre­ate per­fect har­mony in your glass.”

    Attrac­tive bot­tling sim­i­lar to Black Heath’s, with a strik­ing holo­graphic Celtic knot adding piz­zazz to the label on top of the sil­ver bee. The mead itself does­n’t live up to the adver­tis­ing: thin fla­vor with a generic spici­ness. It improved as I got closer to the bot­tom of the bot­tle and the spici­ness amped up, so my guess is that I should’ve been shak­ing it to ensure a more even dis­tri­b­u­tion.

  • Dream by the Fire (★★★☆☆)

    “Apple Cider Mead fer­mented with Spices”; “A coura­geous sea­sonal clas­sic crafted with Vir­ginia wild­flower hon­ey, freshly pressed Vir­ginia apples, cin­na­mon, cloves, and all­spice. Ignite your senses on a cold win­ter eve as you dream by the fire. Pairs well with honey coat cured turkey, Gouda cheese, dried apples, roasted hazel­nuts, dark choco­late, and gin­ger cook­ies. May 2016”

    More fiery than the Scar­bor­ough Fair or the hard cider I’ve tried, my first thought was ‘apple brandy’. I felt Sil­ver Hand had again gone over­board on the spices, which masks the apple & cider (and I’ve started to won­der if they’re not con­fi­dent in their mead).

  • All Blues (★★★★☆/★★★★★)

    “Blue­berry Mead with Spices. The epit­ome of free­dom through beau­ti­ful con­straint. Incred­i­bly smooth like a 50’s modal jazz trum­pet impro­vi­sa­tion, this com­po­si­tion is cre­ated entirely in the mode of blue. Hand­crafted with blue­berry blos­som honey and infused with blue­ber­ries in pri­mary and sec­ondary fer­men­ta­tion. It’s all about blues! Pairs well with grilled meats, pep­per steak, aged Asi­ago or Romano cheese, blue­berry scones, and fresh blue­ber­ries. July 2016.”

  • Vir­ginia Moon tra­di­tional (★★★☆☆/★★★★☆)

    A cel­e­bra­tion of love and his­to­ry, this Williams­burg, Vir­ginia cre­ation hon­ors a tra­di­tion as reli­able as the new moon. Each sum­mer, honey bees gift a har­vest of fine Vir­ginia wild­flower hon­ey, con­tin­u­ing the legacy of ances­tors brought to North Amer­ica through colonies like Williams­burg. This tra­di­tional recipe, fea­tur­ing Vir­ginia hon­ey, makes a per­fect intro­duc­tion to this his­toric drink and the Old Domin­ion where it is hand­craft­ed. Visual – golden orange. Aroma – oak, flo­ral, nut, fruity. Fla­vor – hon­ey, oak, grape. Body – light. Fin­ish – dry oak with a hint of tof­fee. Serve chilled. Pairs well with Vir­ginia coun­try ham, Asian BBQ, pan-seared seafood, pizza and aged Ched­dars. Vir­ginia Moon is inspired by the song Vir­ginia Moon, a duet from the Foo Fight­ers and Norah Jones. We love the clas­sic sound of this song, with the uncanny com­bi­na­tion of musi­cal artists from very dif­fer­ent ends of the musi­cal spec­trum. Give this song a lis­ten while you enjoy this new take on a Vir­ginia tra­di­tion. Dry Tra­di­tional Mead / 500ml / Con­tains sul­fites / Alc. 12.2% by vol.

    Com­pli­cated and a lit­tle chal­leng­ing.

  • Straw­berry Swing (★★★★★) (Vinoship­per)

    Straw­berry Swing harkens back to the inno­cence and sweet­ness of child­hood and the pure enjoy­ment of the sim­ple things like sit­ting on a swing with some­one spe­cial. Savor what is good … Visual – golden blush. Aroma – berry, roasted cocoa, vanil­la, cof­fee. Fla­vor – straw­ber­ry, cher­ry, lime, and but­ter­scotch. Body – medi­um. Fin­ish – caramel Serve chilled. Pairs well with cheese­cake, angel food cake, and fresh berries. Straw­berry Swing is inspired by the song Straw­berry Swing, from Cold­play. Semi­-Sweet Melomel / 500ml / Alc. 12.5% by vol.

    Stun­ningly good, blend­ing a fiery mead with a sub­tle straw­berry which is at least as good as Earle Estate’s Straw­berry shad­ows. Sil­ver Hand has improved its mead dra­mat­i­cally over just a few years.

  • Honey Brûlé (★★★★☆)

    An ancient love long­ing to be remem­bered, blos­som­ing in the scorched earth beneath a once active vol­cano. This reimag­ined medieval French recipe is char­ac­ter­ized by caramelized hon­ey, with aro­mas of cloves, vanil­la, cher­ry, molasses, and oak. Each sip brings a touch of sweet­ness with a long fin­ish that leaves you want­ing more. Pairs well with steak, smoked cheese, and peach cob­bler. Aged 5.5 months in bour­bon bar­rels. Semi­-Sweet Bochet; 500ml; Alc. 15% by vol.

    Sim­i­lar to my cous­in’s ear­lier bochet, a golden caramel color greets you with an intensely alco­holic smell like a brandy. One would never guess it is a mead. The fla­vor is, I think, some­what less rich and com­pli­cated than my cous­in’s but as that was 2 years ago, it’s hard for me to know. Still good.

  • Rasp­berry Pas­sion (★★★★☆)

    Rasp­berry pas­sion fruit mead: Rasp­berry Pas­sion is a two-handed arpeg­gio between rasp­berry and pas­sion fruit; a vir­tu­oso fusion of sweet and tart fla­vors that flow as smooth as a gui­tar solo cranked up to eleven. Boldly be still and savor what is good. Pairs well with lemon cake, vanilla ice cream, and choco­late cheese­cake.

    August 2019, #02453.

Apis Mead & Winery

  • Peach Apri­cot (★★★★☆)

    Light, fruity, and refresh­ing. Hon­ey, peach­es, and apri­cots paired together for a taste that is unmis­tak­ably Spring. 7% ABV Honey Wine with Nat­ural Fla­vors 750ml Sin­gle Bot­tle

    Acquired after a tast­ing of the meads at Apis Mead in Pitts­burgh, Penn­syl­va­nia, and every­one agreed it was the best.

  • Pome­gran­ate Rose (750ml) (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    Over the top aro­mas of freshly picked roses and rich, juicy pome­gran­ates blends grace­fully into the soft­ness of the hon­ey. We intend to pre­serve the nat­ural fla­vors of the raw honey and never boil or fil­ter our prod­ucts. [medi­um-high sweet­ness]

  • Straw­berry kiwi (750ml, 8.5% alco­hol) (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    The prob­lem with both the Pome­gran­ate Rose & Straw­berry Kiwi is that the mead fla­vor is min­i­mal, leav­ing a flat fruit fla­vor. Drink­ing it tasted more like drink­ing a san­gri­a—I had no idea it was a mead or fruit wine.

  • Blue­berry Chai (750ml) (★★★★☆)

    A fan­tas­tic pair­ing of ripe blue­ber­ries and fresh chai spices give this mead a par­tic­u­lar unique­ness that is truly invig­o­rat­ing. We intend to pre­serve the nat­ural fla­vors of the raw honey and never boil or fil­ter our prod­ucts. [medium sweet­ness]

    Like the Earle Estates blue­ber­ries.

Fringe Meadery

  • Fringe Mead­ery (Port­land, Ore­gon): Lit­tle Lord Fauntleroy / Sweet Mead / Fringe Reserve (★★★★☆) 500ml

    reserve series / aged for beauty / Liq­uid deca­dence crafted from pure orange blos­som hon­ey. Entice your deep­est senses with one sip of this seduc­tive ambrosia. Aged 18 months in stain­less steel bar­rels. 13.8% alc. by vol

    Fringe Mead­ery does­n’t seem to doc­u­ment its offer­ings any­where, so I am left guess­ing about what the name of this bot­tle is. (Is the mascot/icon, the name of this spe­cific bot­tle type, the name of their pure-honey offer­ings in gen­er­al, or what?) In any event, the mead is excel­lent in the vein of the Earle Tra­di­tional with a rich com­plex­ity and sharp some­what-licorice-y after­taste (but sweet­er).

Miscellaneous

  • Unnamed 2016 “bochet” mead (★★★★☆)

    My cousin is inter­ested in all things fer­men­ta­tion and has, in addi­tion to his beer brew­ing, occa­sion­ally exper­i­mented with mak­ing mead. The first one of his was, unfor­tu­nate­ly, so bad that I tossed it (the fla­vor was not present and I sus­pect some­thing went wrong with the yeast), but his sec­ond one was dif­fer­ent. When I first tried it, I was flum­moxed as to what it was and haz­arded a guess that it was a wine like a cognac such as Grand Marnier. I was shocked to learn that it was a mead because the rich licorice fla­vor was unlike any mead I’d tried before and I enjoyed it a great deal.

    Unfor­tu­nate­ly, bochet meads are rarely sold com­mer­cial­ly, so it’s for­tu­nate my cousin decided to try them out; also for­tu­nate­ly, if I do ever try out mak­ing my own mead, bochet meads do not seem to be expen­sive to make—the key step is boil­ing the honey to caramelize it, which, while adding the char­ac­ter­is­tic bochet fla­vors, also tends to destroy any spe­cial qual­i­ties of the hon­ey, so one can prob­a­bly get away with using cheaper hon­eys. (Ad­di­tional fla­vor­ing comes from vanilla beans and other spices added to it.)

  • Nec­tar Creek: Wag­gle Wild­flower Ses­sion Mead, 50ml/$8 (★★☆☆☆/★★★☆☆)

    The com­plex essence of Ore­gon wild­flower honey is cap­tured in this ses­sion mead with fla­vors and aro­mas of ripe fruit and fresh hon­ey­comb.

    Rel­a­tively sweet and car­bon­at­ed, but a flat sim­ple fla­vor with­out the com­plex­i­ties I asso­ci­ated with the con­tem­po­rary or tra­di­tional Earle Estates meads. Beer bot­tle style rather than wine bot­tle (the cap is hard to put back on, which is annoy­ing).

  • Fid­dler’s Ridge Farms & Win­ery: Buzzin’ Bee, Wild Flower Honey Wine: 750ml, 12%, $18.95 (★★☆☆☆)

    Bought in a Florida restau­rant, made by a Florida mead­ery with Florida hon­ey. Rel­a­tively sweet. Lit­tle com­plex­ity to the fla­vor and struck me as ‘off’ some­how, leav­ing a bad impres­sion. I tried it simul­ta­ne­ously with a Car­rol­l’s Mead and was­n’t impressed by either but thought the Car­rol­l’s Mead was a bit bet­ter.

Fruit

Earle Estates Meadery

  • Blue­berry wine (★★★★★)

    Gold Medal, 7.0%RS. Made from 100% NYS Blue­ber­ries! Great with beef dish­es, espe­cially with a tomato sauce, cheese­cake.

    Not actu­ally a mead, but it looked tasty so I ordered it, and I have no “Wine” page, so I cover it here. This blue­berry wine turns out to taste exactly how one would expect ‘blue­berry wine’ to taste. The fla­vor isn’t over­pow­er­ing, and it has a con­trast­ing sharp after­taste. Tasty.

    Earle Estates, blue­berry wine

Dessert wines

Jackson-Triggs

  • Vidal Icewine (★★★☆☆)

    is very expen­sive on a unit-ba­sis; this 2008 bot­tle would cost ~$27 for 187ml, so in com­par­i­son to a more nor­mal 750ml bot­tle, it’s some­where around 4x expen­sive. Which on the sig­nal­ing the­ory of gifts, makes it an excel­lent gift since any­one who has looked at the price will know that a fair bit of money was spent on it. But it also means I rarely get to try any since I can’t jus­tify spend­ing that much on ice-wine when I could buy 4x mead with that mon­ey, or buy sev­eral times that in tea.

    (Look­ing at a price his­tory of Vidal Icewine, I was sur­prised to see that the price dou­bled in 2009, which appar­ently was a good year in gen­eral for Ontario wines but a ter­ri­ble one for ice-wine with that har­vest a quar­ter the 2008 size—so per­haps one could say that ice-wine is a liq­uid , which ought to be in high demand by any wine hedge fund!)

    The man­u­fac­tur­ing of ice-wine is roman­tic, and it deliv­ers: this was sweet, too sweet for most of the peo­ple who tried it. One sips it slow­ly. Besides the intense sweet­ness, there is a sort of fruity (not grape-y) aroma I don’t gen­er­ally asso­ciate with white wines which is inter­est­ing.

    Small bot­tle of ice-wine, front/back
    The ice-wine stor­age tube

Domaine Neige

  • Domaine Neige, Ice Cider Pre­miere (375ml, 12% alco­hol, $20-30) (★★★★★)

    Autumn har­vest McIntosh/Cortland/Spartan apples; 375g/l sugar at har­vest, 160g/l resid­ual. Apple com­pote. Intense. Crisp, fla­vor­ful attack. Per­fect bal­ance of sugar and acid­i­ty. Solo or with cheese and desserts. 43F, serve cold. Excel­lent now but great aging poten­tial (2 month­s),

    Pro­duced in Que­bec, Cana­da. is, as the name sug­gests, hard cider pro­duced along the lines of ice wine: the apples are har­vested and left until win­ter, con­cen­trat­ing sug­ars (as sug­gested by the ABV—twice that of any hard cider I’ve had recent­ly) with­out the use of explicit dis­til­la­tion like . Sur­pris­ing­ly, “ice cider” appears to only date to a few decades ago and remains closely asso­ci­ated with Domaine Neige. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, like ice wine and for the same rea­son, it is con­sid­er­ably more expen­sive by unit.

    After watch­ing My Lit­tle Pony: Friend­ship is Magic, I became curi­ous about what tasted like—a clas­sic bit of Amer­i­cana and cider cul­ture, hard cider which has been “jacked” up by freez­ing—but I was unable to find any and it’s unclear if it’s pro­duced at all any­more. (My cousin sug­gested that this was because freeze dis­til­la­tion gives poorer con­trol over the more unde­sir­able and dan­ger­ous alco­hols pro­duced by fer­men­ta­tion, which in other processes are easy to dis­card as they are the first to come out of the still etc while in freeze dis­til­la­tion they would remain min­gled, but as far as I can tell, this is not a seri­ous health con­cern.) Ice cider is close to how I imag­ine it would work: indeed, the only dif­fer­ence seems to be the tim­ing of when the apple juice is frozen, so I ques­tion call­ing it “ice cider” at all rather than apple­jack.

    The pack­ag­ing is pretty & empha­sizes the winter/Canada con­nec­tion. The fla­vor is intensely apple-­like, both sharp and sweet. A lit­tle goes a long way served with ice to keep it chilled. The rich fla­vor has caramel notes and I’m reminded of both my cous­in’s bochet mead & brandy. It is fan­tas­tic. I just wish it were not so expen­sive! An ice cider habit would get costly quick­ly.


  1. They’re gen­er­ally nice harm­less folks, and I enjoy some anachro­nisms myself like mar­tial arts; I’m just point­ing out that “mead” is some­thing of a punch­line or joke.↩︎