The oldest alcoholic drink? | Chicago wine

Mead is believed to be the oldest alcoholic drink in the world, dating as far back as 7000 BC in China. Mead is honey wine (a fermented drink made from honey, water and yeast). Although similar to beer in that it may involve other flavor additions such as fruits, grains and spices, it is in a category of its own with an alcohol content ranging from 8 to 20%.

Despite the higher alcohol content, mead is considered healthier than wine and beer because it contains honey which is easier to metabolize and has natural antiseptic and antibacterial properties. Mead also has high antioxidant properties, which makes it naturally sterile and lasts almost forever, unlike wine or beer. For this reason, very few sulfites need to be used in the process of making mead to preserve the wine, which is another advantage of mead.

Wild Blossom Meadery & Winery

I haven’t drunk much mead, so I was immediately intrigued when I spotted Greg Fischer, owner of Wild Blossom Meadery & Winery, pouring mead at a recent chocolate tasting for Morton Arboretum. I went and started trying almost everything he had on hand. Wild Blossom produces several categories of mead, including semi-dry, semi-sweet, sweet, and specialty meads, as well as a few traditional wines made from grapes. Fascinated, I took some time with Greg and Scott Moyers (VP ​​of Sales) to dig deeper into the world’s oldest fermented drink.

Greg has made mead most of his life in various parts of the world and started his own Wild Blossom Meadery & Winery in 2000. Located in Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood, he currently makes 10,000 gallons of mead per year and also has 100 of its own bees. urticaria. Hives are found in the plains and prairies of the Midwest.

Bees, trees and flowers

When people talk about wine, they often refer to “terroir,” that somewhat elusive concept combining soil, climate, and weather (among many other elements). Mead is similar in that the bees bring their own version of the terroir based on the flowers they pollinate and the location of those flowers. For example, Scott told me that pollination of buckwheat creates molasses honey flavors. Robinia pollination creates a water-white honey while linden and linden trees contribute to the floral and minty notes of mead. The chicory creates a slightly amber honey while the clover brings a touch of raisin and floral notes.

Although there aren’t many studies on the impact of different soil types on the flavor of honey, Greg said there are wide variations in flavor between the same honey from different regions.

Incredibly, Greg also stated that it takes one bee pollinating 2 million flowers to produce one pound of honey. A hive of bees typically produces 70 pounds of honey per year and a hive of bees must travel 55,000 miles to produce one pound of honey.

The mead process

Mead is made with two fermentations. The first fermentation converts the sugar in the honey into alcohol to create the base honey while the second fermentation is where Greg adds the fruit blend into the mix (creating the flavor profile). Tart fruits work best with mead as they balance out the richness of the honey. Most of Greg’s meads contain around 8% alcohol, but there are a few that are higher than that.


Here are some of the meads I tasted from Greg’s Wild Blossom Meadery & Winery.

blood of pirates – Very popular and cool looking skull bottle contains pirates blood which is made from chili pepper and capsicum. I can’t stand a lot of spicy drinks, but this one has just enough spiciness to be enjoyable without overdoing it.

Strawberry — Jammy ripe fruit sprouts from the glass with an earthy undertone of freshly picked strawberries. The pure strawberry nose is amazing and brings to mind the hot summer days of sitting in your own strawberry field.

Hops Mead Pineapple — One of my favorites, this mead has an enticing combination of hops and pineapple with notes intertwined with yeast and tropical fruit flavors. If you like hops or even the sumptuous smell of fresh bread, you’ll love it.

Sparkling Blueberry Pomegranate –This mead has delicate yet full flavored juicy blueberry flavors intertwined with the taut acidity of pomegranate. The fact that it is a sparkling wine makes it all the more elegant. It was another one of my favorites.


Lime Mango – This one was intriguing because I don’t like mango or lime, but this combination works incredibly well. The tropical orange flavors of mango rise to a cooler level with the crisp acidity and tart notes of lime.

Lemon Guava – My first thought of this mead was a gentle sea breeze wafting from the glass. Tropical notes with cool mineral tones of lemon make this one refreshing and airy.

puppet – Oregon is known for growing marionberries, a blackberry cultivar developed by Oregon State University. Bramble mulberry courses through this lively mead, another favorite of mine.

Chili – Dry pepper and dried chilli leaves contribute to the fire while honey softens the blow. This mead leaves you feeling warm inside without being too spicy.

All of the meads shared the common thread of flavors that were incredibly fresh, vibrant and singing with purity. The flavors literally jumped out of the glass like bottled spring.

On the wine side, I also liked the bull’s blood which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah aged in barrels for 1 year. The honey softens the tannins, leaving the wine with red and purple floral notes on the finish. Honey can also enhance a wine’s fruit flavors in dry red wines.

Look for these fascinating drinks at Binny’s as well as online at the Wild Blossom Meadery website. You can also visit the Meadery yourself. Wild Blossom offers wine/mead tastings, winemaking classes, and a beautiful private event space available for rental. Located at the edge of Dan Ryan Woods and Trail, it’s an easy drive just off the Dan Ryan Highway.

Wild Blossom Meadery & Winery

About Michael Brafford

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