It’s been six months now since I bottled my strawberry melomel (here’s the recipe if you like: Matt’s Strawberry Melomel). My wife and I had some friends over for dinner and I decided to offer them some to see what they thought of my creation (these were the same friends I put through the Riesling Yeast Experiment tasting).
Unlike the previous tasting this was not a formal event. I merely asked our friends if they cared to try another one of my wines before dinner. They agreed so I put one of the 375ml bottles in the freezer for fifteen minutes or so to chill it down.
Whenever you make wine it is a good idea to periodically taste it and take notes so you know how the wine changes over time. I’ve decided to share my notes and lessons learned with you here in this article so you can see what I’m looking for.
When the wine was cool enough to serve I uncorked it and noticed that there was a bit of sediment that had collected in the bottle. Handling it only served to mix it all back up again so the melomel was not as clear as I would have liked it. Not one to get discouraged I decided to pour the melomel through a coffee filter into the glasses. This took care of the bigger pieces and with the condensation on the glass from the chill no one noticed that the wine wasn’t 100% clear.
Early Tasting for a Mead
As far as meads go this one is still pretty young. Most of the time it is better to wait one to three years before regularly consuming a fermented honey product. This wine is an exception though.
I wanted to get an earlier taste with this wine for two reasons. First, this melomel was made with a lot of strawberries and most fruit wines tend to peak early. If you wait too long they can taste tired and boring.
The second reason for tasting this wine early was because I used potassium sorbate to stabilize the wine before I back sweetened it. Over time sorbate can produce off flavors and I want to check in periodically to gage how this wine is aging with the sorbate.
So while honey fermented beverages tend to take a long time to mature I have two factors that may cause this wine to peak sooner rather than later. I will be opening three bottles this year and then two bottles each year for the next few years. This is a long term experiment that will give me a glimpse at how well a wine like this ages.
All in all this strawberry melomel is pretty good. It still needs a bit more time for all the flavors to come together. There was a tiny bit of that young mead alcohol flavor which sort of covered up the strawberry flavor but all of the components are there.
I was expecting a bit more of a fresh, fruit forward strawberry flavor and was a little disappointed that it took a back seat to the honey. This may even out over time as the intensity of the alcohol calms down and the flavors integrate more completely. Only time will tell though whether or not this plays out.
I’m happy to report that the melomel is completely still. There was no evidence what so ever of suspended carbon dioxide. As this has been an issue for me in the past given the temperatures of my wine making area (mid 60’s F) I am quite pleased that there was no carbonation.
Our guests both enjoyed my strawberry melomel. The wife of the couple doesn’t drink much alcohol, however, she indulged in half a glass or so and liked it. Her husband enjoyed a couple glasses with dinner as did I.
Notes for Next Time
If I make this again I would like to increase the amount of strawberries and decrease the amount of honey or even just make a straight strawberry wine and skip the honey altogether. The reason being that I didn’t get a good idea of how the strawberries fared in this wine. They were too well blended with the honey to tell.
By making a straight strawberry wine I will gain a better understanding of how that fruit by itself ferments and matures over time. I have a few straight meads that are aging now so I’ve got a decent handle on that already.
Additionally, I would like to leave a bottle of two dry so that I have something to compare the back sweetened bottles to. This melomel was actually quite a bit sweeter than I remembered it being when I bottled it and it would have been nice to have it side by side with a dry version.
Lastly, I would like to sterile filter next time and skip the sorbate. Sorbate can lead to short term candy like flavors which I would guess can be accentuated by the use of honey as a back sweetener. As I mentioned before this additive can also lead to off flavors over time. Because meads and melomels take a long time to mature I feel like I am in a race against the sorbate to see if the wine matures into something amazing before the sorbate ruins it. I don’t want to be in this position again.
It will be interesting to see how this melomel matures. Perhaps it will improve or it may be as good as it will ever be right now. Only time will tell.
Thoughts on the #9 Premium Corks
For a while now I’ve been using these #9 Premium Corks (affiliate link). They are well made corks with an agglomerated core and solid cork disks on the top and bottom. The wine only ever touches a solid piece of cork as illustrated in this picture.
Due to the diameter of the undeformed cork they are a pretty tight fit when you insert them into the bottles. You’ve got to push pretty hard to get them in there with a small corker like I have.
I was really surprised when I removed the cork though. The seal was amazing! I had to put my back into it when I used my standard corkscrew to open this one up. While I don’t necessarily want my wines to be hard to open it is comforting to know that these corks are not going to get pushed out and there’s no way they’re going to leak.
It could be that the 375ml bottles have a slightly smaller neck that the standard 750ml bottles but I remember them being hard to insert into the larger bottles as well. I feel confident that I can trust these corks for another couple of years in the bottle. So if you’re looking for some good corks to use on a wine you intend to age for a few years I highly recommend #9 Premium Corks.
Photograph of strawberries by: Sharon Mollerus