View Full Version : hydrometer reading in comercial wine

07-23-2008, 11:54 AM
hello just had a thought (and no the world is not ending) . First let me say i have not had a lot of mead making under my belt. what i want to know is to decide how sweet to make a mead for me. Can I take a wine for example that i like, get it to 70 deg. and take a hydrometer reading of it and get a target goal for my meads? Do they have any perservatives in the comercial wines that mess with the ending gravity?
thanks alex

07-23-2008, 01:38 PM
Mead is fundamentally different from wine, with an acid-sugar balance that depends on different acids than those found in grapes, so a given specific gravity that tastes appropriately sweet to you in a wine may come across as way too sweet in a mead.

The best thing to do is to take a dry mead, pour yourself several equal glasses of it, and add different amounts of additional honey to each glass. Then taste each one, and figure out what one provides the sense of sweetness that you're after. Measure the gravity of the sample that you like best, and it will be close to the final gravity that you want to end up with in your main batch.

Notice, I said "close to." The quick test I've described does not account for how the flavors will meld and change as that additional honey has time to age into the main batch, so this works only as a rough guide. Still, you'll at least be in the ballpark for predicting at what SG you'd like your batch to end up.

Dan McFeeley
07-23-2008, 02:11 PM
To add a bit more -- acid/sugar balance in wine is a balance between tartaric & malic acids, and the residual sugars in the wine. The acids found in wine, tartaric and malic (mostly tartaric acid with some malic) are strong and sour tasting acids. So, balance in wine is going to be a balance between the strong taste contributed by the acids found in the wine grape, and the residual sugar. You can call this a sort of "support structure" in wine.

Gluconic acid, the primary acid found in honey, does not have the strong sour taste of the organic acids found in the wine grape. According to descriptions, it's mild tasting, "refreshingly" sour, and acts as a flavor enhancer.

In the past people have misunderstood this, and supposed that honey, lacking the strength of the acids found in wine, needed acid additives to bring it up to speed. It sort of worked, but often required a lot of aging.

The clue was when meadmakers noticed that mead made without acid additives tasted just fine by itself, good balance, and good honey aroma and flavor.

The differences between chemical and organoleptic properties of the acids found in grapes, and in honey, indicate that "support structure" in wine and honey are strikingly different. As a result, acid additives in winemaking are vital in correcting balance. Acid additives in mead act instead as a flavor additive, almost the way spices work in metheglins.

It's also helpful in understanding this to avoid the trap of oversimplifying the acid/sweetness balance in wine as thought it were a mathematical equation of positive and negative. More realistically, the acids and sugars in wine have flavors, so balance is much more complicated than adding enough acid and/or sugar to balance the wine.

I've often imagined the support structure in mead as more of a three way interraction between gluconic acid, the fructose and glucose sugars of the honey, and the honey flavor itself, if this can even be called a support structure.

For that reason, I'm guessing that "balance" in mead is better achieved by blending different varietal honeys, than by adding acids or sugars.

Hope that's not too confusing!

07-23-2008, 02:31 PM
Thanks for filling in the additional detail, Dan!

BTW - for those who don't know what that wonderful sounding term, organoleptic, means -- it simply is the way that something smells, feels, tastes, etc., or basically, how you perceive it with your senses.

07-23-2008, 03:17 PM
thanks for the replies. You could have just said no. lol

Im pretty sure i understand dan and its good stuff to know.

Im going to just pic a mead and try makeing one bone dry and the other with a little sugar left over that way im also praticing making mead too. dont worry both will get consumed. :cheers:

btw as for the word "organoleptic" i didnt have a clue what it meant lol. I cant wait to use it in front of the wifey. Its the small things like that that really enhance ones life i think.
thanks alex