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andrewschwab
06-21-2009, 03:59 AM
Looking at this season's honey crop coming in, and assessing the blackberry bloom in our area. It comes to me, honey very much has terrior.

This year for example, is very cool and semi-wet during the bloom. I know from past years this will make for a very long bloom (larger honey yield), BUT the flavor of the honey will be very mild, gentle.

Yet other years where the temps are higher and the rain is no where to be seen, the honey has a very floral flavor. But the bloom only lasts for 2-3 weeks

Much like grapes, the more stress the bloom is put under the greater the flavor of the honey. But not to much stress or no yield. :p

I would bet with much more time and work this would also show through in your meads. You would very much be able to show vintage and terrior. IF your honey source was from one area. Unfortunately it is very hard to produce that much honey and run a meadery that would produce a living income. :p

So I would suggest more mead makers put a few bees in there backyards. To see the difference from year to year. Even the bees in town show terrior.

Plus you would have complete control over the processing of the honey. Remember never above 100 degrees.;)

Dan McFeeley
06-22-2009, 02:07 AM
I remember posting on this subject years back, on the venerable Mead Lovers Digest. I'd pointed out that, in comparison, the terroir revolving around the wine grape is less variable than that of honey. The reason is that genetics plays a strong role in the final product of the plant whereas honey is not directly genetically controled. Hence, there are more variables at play.

Terroir -- it's one of those wholistic ideas, involving every nuance of soil, weather, geographical location, etc., et. al., resulting in the final profile of the wine. Cynics call it a marketing technique, meant to pump up the value of a wine made at a specific location. Less cynical people know the value of location in agriculture.

Honey, being what it is, has even more variables than the wine grape. You can talk about a specific varietal honey, but there will be vast differences between the varietal honey of one region of the country versus another. Buckwheat honey is a familiar one on these forums, also the MLD. Eastern buckwheat honey is very strong and dark, Western buckwheat honey milder in comparison.

Wildflower honey -- that's more or less a non-varietal honey, made from the local flora of the area, in whatever combination the bees choose. A mead made from wildflower honey, gathered by a local beekeeper, would truly express a good terroir mead.

Medsen Fey
06-22-2009, 11:23 AM
The concept of Terrior incorporates the idea that wine grown/made in a certain place will have a recognizable character from year to year. The Masters of wine seem to have palates that can identify the vineyard from which some wines originate, and may be able to discern different vintage years as well.

Since there are more variable that affect honey, I wonder if the honey produced in a single location can result in a beverage that can be identified as being from that area year to year. It would be very interesting to study.

akueck
06-22-2009, 02:19 PM
Yeah I think you have to separate the concept of seasonality from Terroir. To me terroir is about the climate of a place (soil, sun, humidity, wind, etc) but not so much the weather. When it is hot in Europe one year, everybody's wines will be riper and less acidic. That effect is layered onto the terroir of each vineyard, but is not specifically part of it (to me). I think the wildflower honey idea is a good one for the terroir of honey, since the local flower population is presumably going to differ from place to place. Again, a warmer or cooler year might result in more or less intense honey across the board, but each hive will still maintain the character of the plants nearby. Even varietal honey could do this, if it is not blended from a vast expanse. Orange grove A might have more clover around the trees than orange grove B, for example.

beninak
07-01-2009, 03:23 PM
This is a fascinating subject, and makes me wish I lived further from town and had more land to house some bees and do some experimenting of my own!

There are, of course, alot of unique conditions here in Alaska that I'm sure would be reflected in the Terroir of anything agriculturally produced here. Its a shame that we are one of the few states (maybe the only one) in the US where so far it has proved impossible to grow grapes, but everything from vegetables to marijuana that are grown here are known for their "unique" taste (or mind-altering properties as the case may be).

We once had a local bee-keeper who spoke to our homebrew club and claimed that the US Olympic Committee conducted scientific testing and concluded that his honey contained something-or-other that made it the best for assisting in the health and recovery of athletes and that's why they buy their honey exclusively from him. I haven't verified this claim, but I'll admit his honey is very tasty and provides an invigorating feeling (unfortunately he charges an arm and a leg for it). :( He credits his "terroir" and careful all-natural/no-heat methods of handling the honey and the bees for giving him such a high-quality product.

Medsen Fey
07-01-2009, 03:52 PM
I'm wondering how would you go about testing for "terrior" with honey/mead?

I can envision something like this:

1. Get similar varietal honey from more than 1 location. I'm thinking orange blossom for example; some from Florida, some from California, and some from elsewhere (Texas? Europe?).

2. Ferment a simple dry mead with a starting gravity of about 1.100 using the same yeast (a clean fermenter like K1V maybe) with identical nutrients. No oak, or other flavors to clutter up the profile. By fermenting them all in the same location, you minimize the "fermentation contribution" to the results.

3. Repeat this process over three consecutive years, so that you have 9 samples of mead to compare.

4. Age the youngest batch at least one year (the oldest batch will then be 4 years) They'll have to be cellared properly (or refrigerated - that might make the age difference less prominent).

5. Then taste the meads and see if you can match the meads that come from the same place together. This might require some folks with palates that have more acuity than mine, but I'm sure some of you've got that covered.

Obviously you could do the same thing with other varieties of honey. The variability of wildflower might make it too easy; the difference between eastern and western buckwheat perhaps might as well. I'm sure there are other varieties that cover enough geography to make it possible.

What else could we do to determine if such "terrior" can be documented in mead?

afdoty
07-01-2009, 06:49 PM
Obviously you could do the same thing with other varieties of honey. The variability of wildflower might make it too easy; the difference between eastern and western buckwheat perhaps might as well. I'm sure there are other varieties that cover enough geography to make it possible.

What else could we do to determine if such "terrior" can be documented in mead?

That is a very interesting idea. What if several people each took on a differant type of honey? There would have to be a "secured" sourse for each varity to insure a multi-year supply.

beninak
07-01-2009, 11:09 PM
I would think that wildflower honey would be the best representation of regional/climate differences since it takes into account the various flora of that region and is produced by healthier bees.

By using only varietal honeys you would be more restricted what you could compare, but the differences would still be evident. California vs Florida OB honey would be an exciting challenge, by why limit yourself to a product that is by-and-large limited (in the US, at least) to those two states? Of course, it would cut down on your variability factors, but I guess that's why I'm not a scientist :p

Medsen Fey
07-01-2009, 11:22 PM
I would think that wildflower honey would be the best representation of regional/climate differences since it takes into account the various flora of that region and is produced by healthier bees.



You make a very good point. There is great variability in wildflower from region to region, and it might work very well to produce meads that you could tie to a location. After giving it more thought, it might be a great choice to demonstrate the "locality" of the mead.

I guess the one question I would want to ask, "does wildflower remain consistent enough from year to year (if you collect at the same time of the season) in the same place for you to be able to pick it out? By choosing a single varietal, you'd have a bit more consistency, but even that is questionable.

Perhaps some of the beekeepers can point the way as to what honey they think can be most consistently identified with their location.

Al's idea to try more than one honey is probably a good one.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to organize such a tasting comparison to get statistically valid results?

andrewschwab
07-02-2009, 12:22 AM
I can say that the urban hive (which would be wild I guess no single source) swings widely on what the honey is like each year.
My guess would be to stay with single source like Orange, blackberry, meadow foam even, etc....
Meadowfoam is grown from southern OR into CA.. those valleys are very different

afdoty
07-02-2009, 05:16 AM
Does anyone have any suggestions on how to organize such a tasting comparison to get statistically valid results?

The tasting could wait, no?...we're talking years before the comparison.

But say we got several people involved and each were to find a local apiary (that would eliminate the business that truck their hives across country). A small time apiary would be more likely stay in the same local and get the same regional honey year after year. Then the changes would be the result of "enviromental" effects for each honey.

wildoates
07-02-2009, 10:33 AM
Everything would need to be the same EXCEPT the location of the honey--the same recipe, the same brewing process insofar as it is possible, the same honey variety, early/late flow, etc. The only difference would have to be the geography, over a number of years. It would need to be a varietal available pretty much everywhere. Careful climactic records would need to be kept regarding temps, rainfall...

We're all scientists at heart.

AToE
07-02-2009, 12:53 PM
I'm obviously way to new to mead to be of much help in critical tasting, but this concept has me very interested. If other people would participate, I would be more than willing to conduct this experiment (keeping all variables but the honey as exact as possible obviously) over a few years, using honey from different local apiaries (assuming they can gaurantee that the honey came from the same places each year, ie: they are not renting out their bees all over the place) up here in Canada. The one problem with this would be that it would be unlikely that I would have similar flower content in the local honeys as you do down south (I have a lot of research to do yet, but Canada seems to have very little actual varietal honey - almost all of what we produce is "Canada white"... I have been unable so far to determin what the heck that is supposed to be...), so the comparison would probably be between different parts of Alberta/Canada, rather than between my meads and someone elses.

3 or 4 years from now I will probably be thoroughly addicted to brewing enough to justify making a trip down south for one of these competitions/conventions I keep reading about, so I could drag some bottles with me and let some people with much better critical tasting skills than me do the testing. Or we could arrange something else.

This seems like a fun and educational experiment, and if everyone does smaller batches it shouldn't cost much money or effort to pull off.

wildoates
07-02-2009, 12:57 PM
What is this "smaller batches" you speak of?
:confused2:

Medsen Fey
07-02-2009, 01:29 PM
I'm obviously way to new to mead to be of much help in critical tasting, but this concept has me very interested.

While I do recognize that one's palate can be trained, I don't know that that is needed for this. Your palate might be sensitive enough to distinguish those differences, and in fact, it would be interesting to see how many people can (whether experienced with mead or not).

I'd like to see if I can do it - I know my palate is not the most sensitive - my wife's is much better. In fact it is kind of funny for someone like me without a great sense of smell and taste trying to become a mead maker. It may be a bit like a blind man trying to paint a masterpiece, or a deaf man trying to write a symphony (oh, wait...didn't Beethoven do that? There's hope after all). I just have to learn to "feel the mead." ;D

In any case, I'm willing to try with some orange blossom. I can get Florida from a source that I think will be here for the next couple of years. Anyone got a good suggestion for a California source? How about a third source?

I did have another thought on how to test this concept. Take the same honey from 3 different places, and allow different people to each make 3 simple traditional meads starting at the same gravity using whatever yeast, and fermentation management approach they prefer. Then compare the samples between mazers to see if there is an aroma or flavor that allows you to group the meads from the same source together? This would not take 3-4 years, but could be done in one year. It would answer the question if there is honey terrior that can shine through the yeast and cellar operations. Would that be useful to try?

Again, we're going need a statistician to tell us how to arrange the tasting.

beninak
07-02-2009, 03:26 PM
(I have a lot of research to do yet, but Canada seems to have very little actual varietal honey - almost all of what we produce is "Canada white"... I have been unable so far to determin what the heck that is supposed to be...), so the comparison would probably be between different parts of Alberta/Canada, rather than between my meads and someone elses.



"Canada white" that is produced in western Canada as near as i can tell technically a wildflower honey since the bees are constricted to particular nectar sources, however it is overwhelmingly dominated by white clover which gives it a mild taste.




As for the tasting, naturally it would be entirely subjective since it will be based on different people's sensory perceptions. Also, if you are just judging the mead and not the honey, you will have to take into account the water source and brewing methods as well as any contaminates that might have crept in from the air, etc.

It seems to me that laboratory analysis of the raw honey would be the most statistically valid way to determine the differences that terrior imparts to the honey....but what fun is that? :rolleyes:

Medsen Fey
07-03-2009, 06:01 PM
I've been thinking how to simplify this a wee bit, so that we can actually get testing underway sooner rather than later.

We could narrow it down to honey from two different locations. Then take that honey and make two batches using the same water and yeast and so forth.

Then do a series of triangular or quadrilateral tastings. You receive 4 bottles and are asked which ones are the same. You could get 2/2 or 3/1 and depending on how many folks can pick them out, you could perhaps tell if the location of the honey makes a consistently detectable difference. Obviously, following the testing, we'd have a better idea whose palates are more sensitive for subsequent rounds.

We need someone to take on the chore of producing the 2 batches. We'll need at least 5 gallons each (10 would be better) to have enough for testing now, and comparison with subsequent years it we keep the testing going. Ideally we need someone with a good cellar for storing it in.

I don't mind organizing the funds for the project - so if there is a volunteer it will be no cost to you other than your time and carboy space. We can call it the "Great Terrior Taste Test." If there is anyone interested in volunteering to make these batches, PM me. Anyone interested in putting your palate to the Terrior Taste Test as one of the participants, please PM me. In order to participate, tasters would be expected to foot the cost of shipping to their localities.

So do we have anyone interested?

AToE
07-03-2009, 07:04 PM
"Canada white" that is produced in western Canada as near as i can tell technically a wildflower honey since the bees are constricted to particular nectar sources, however it is overwhelmingly dominated by white clover which gives it a mild taste.



Thanks, I've actually been having a terrible time figuring that out - but this makes sense because white clover is probably one of the most common flowering feild plants up here.

andrewschwab
07-06-2009, 01:29 PM
I am willing to kick in the honey for a batch.
That is if you go with blackberry honey. that is the only single source I have,
I fit the bill, bees don't move and come from the same area every year. (ribbon ridge ava) in oregon ;)

Medsen Fey
07-06-2009, 01:44 PM
I like it. Does anyone know another reliable producer of blackberry honey from another location of the country that will be producing it from the same location for the next couple of years?

wildoates
07-06-2009, 02:41 PM
I'm willing to participate--more than willing!

Any excuse to play with chemistry. :)

STLBrewer
07-06-2009, 04:51 PM
You may want to check with Laney Honey or our friends at The Bee Folks...they may be willing to do that.

Just a thought!!

andrewschwab
07-07-2009, 01:23 AM
Those would be honey broker's. The broker's blend and buy from whoever whenever. Which is fine, just doesn't seem good for this per say...

You want to try and find beekeeper's with same location year after year. Even if they come and go during the year would be fine. Just so the honey comes from that same location.

Medsen Fey
07-07-2009, 09:23 AM
Winter Park Honey produces Florida Blackberry honey. I am trying to confirm that they get it from the same location each year. This might be good for a comparison seeings how it's from the opposite end of the country. Anyone with a good producer somewhere in the middle please chime in and we can try to expand to a 3 way comparison.

We still don't have a volunteer to make (and store, and coordinate shipping) for 2 ten-gallon batches.

STLBrewer
07-07-2009, 09:50 AM
Those would be honey broker's. The broker's blend and buy from whoever whenever. Which is fine, just doesn't seem good for this per say...

You want to try and find beekeeper's with same location year after year. Even if they come and go during the year would be fine. Just so the honey comes from that same location.

Oh yeah...duh! :rolleyes:

I should have thought of that...sorry!

wildoates
07-07-2009, 11:26 AM
I will volunteer to make, store, and ship.


:)

afdoty
07-07-2009, 01:23 PM
We still don't have a volunteer to make (and store, and coordinate shipping) for 2 ten-gallon batches.

We're talking about doing 2 ten gallon batches done each year for 4 years?

Medsen Fey
07-07-2009, 01:34 PM
That would be marvelous! If we can get two 10-gallon batches done each year for two years, we'd have a good little test.

afdoty
07-07-2009, 04:35 PM
That would be marvelous! If we can get two 10-gallon batches done each year for two years, we'd have a good little test.

2 years is more reasonable.........or what if we did two 5 gallon per year for the full 4 years? I think I can find a quite corner somewhere to do this. My down stairs runs about 68 degrees +/-2.

Medsen Fey
07-07-2009, 04:58 PM
The reason I think we need 10 gallon batches for the first is so that there will be enough for multi-year comparison. In the first year, if you get 10 tasters (and I'd like to have more), you'll need two bottles per taster or about 1 case of 12-oz bottles for each batch. In the second year, or third year, you'll need a similar amount. A five gallon batch in year two or three will probably work fine, but for the first year, you need to make enough to carry the tasting for a few years.

You know, it's funny when you start to outline a test how much thinking has to go in at the beginning. It really makes me appreciate some of those closure trials such as the ones in Australia. They had to do an awful lot of preparatory work.

wildoates
07-07-2009, 05:43 PM
I can't say I'd volunteer to taste, as I don't know what I'm tasting, but I'll make it so others can taste.

:)

afdoty
07-07-2009, 08:12 PM
You know, it's funny when you start to outline a test how much thinking has to go in at the beginning. It really makes me appreciate some of those closure trials such as the ones in Australia. They had to do an awful lot of preparatory work.

To true. Many "man-hours" have been wasted on tests that were performed with not enough prep work. Better to think it through now, than to come up short 5 gallons from year one.

As far as I’m concerned, if you want to do the 4 years trail, we can. It certainly would be the best and most interesting "trial".

Maybe this could work:

Year 1: brew 20 gal (divided into four 5 gallon carboys)

Year 2: brew 15 gal (divided into three 5 gallon carboys)
One 5 gal from year one bottled for tasting

Year 3: brew 10 gal (divided into two 5 gallon carboy)
One 5 gal from year one and one 5 gal from year two bottled
For tasting

Year 4: brew 5 gal
One 5 gal from years one, two and three bottled For tasting.

Year 5: carboys from years one through four bottled and divided up.

The "brewers" would need to dedicate 4 carboys in year one, 6 carboys in years two and three and 4 carboys through year four. The most we'd have to carry forward would be 6 carboys.

andrewschwab
07-07-2009, 11:46 PM
Just a thought, if bulk age 1 year then bottle.
Would bottleing in 375ml work? I really don't know just a thought.

afdoty
07-08-2009, 09:43 AM
I like it. Does anyone know another reliable producer of blackberry honey from another location of the country that will be producing it from the same location for the next couple of years?

Well, I think I found a source for Blackberry Honey. They're in New Hampshire. They pretty much stay in New England and go to the same areas annually. They can't guarantee that the honey will be from the exact same "orchard" each year, but it will be from the same area.... eg: New England.

It could work..........

Also, There's a place in NJ that has Blueberry Honey. They do go back to the same fields each. Blue berry could be another alternative.

wildoates
07-08-2009, 09:44 AM
Both of those are tasty honeys.

ken_schramm
07-08-2009, 05:42 PM
I believe there is no way "terroir" could not be affecting honey flavor and aroma, to use the double negative. On the other hand (and not that I have thought about this much ;)), here are some caveats...

A different approach might be to freeze the honeys in airtight containers until all had been accumulated, and the make all the meads the same year. In any case, you will be dealing with the impact of storage/aging time on either the honey or on the mead when evaluating the finished meads.

Another approach might be to gather honeys from the same floral source from the same relative micro-climate. I'm pretty sure you could find three or four reliable sources of sweet clover honey from different regions of Nebraska, for example. But then...

The last issue is that unless you are the beekeeper in all cases, you can never really control (from source to source) for hive management practice, which has a huge impact on the flavor of the honey. One beekeeper may be re-using aging comb, another using foundation only, and yet another doing basically top-bar management. Even if the hives are side-by-side, the honey from each will be distinctly different. The question(s) this raises is/are, which and how much of the differences you can taste are being contributed as the result of terroir, and which/how much from hive management practice? Lots to standardize to end up with a true control group. It could be done, but to be done right will not be cheap, by any means.

Ken

Medsen Fey
07-08-2009, 10:40 PM
I believe there is no way "terroir" could not be affecting honey flavor and aroma, to use the double negative.

I don't think anyone doubts that honey from different regions will have different flavor - the obvious example being wildflower. Here in Florida wildflower is going to be some mix of citrus, Brazilian pepper bush, palmetto and such, and Canadian wildflower is going to probably be heavy on clover. They'll certainly be different, and they will vary from year to year.

I guess we need to define "Terroir" a bit.

In my interpretation (and I'll be first to admit a humble one) of Terroir what we are looking for is not the difference from place to place, but instead that consistency which could define a place from year to year. In winemaking, each vintage may be different depending on temperature, number of sunny days, rainfall amount, how the canopy is managed, how much fertilizer is used, how ripe when picked, and how selective the sorting among other factors. With all these variables, plus all the cellar operations, and the blending of varieties, you'd think that a wine must be radically different each year.

That's not necessarily the case. With the direction of the winemaker, adjustments are made within the framework of these variables to try to produce some consistency in flavor and style. In the end, to use a gross example (and an expensive one), in the Bordeaux region, a Château Haut-Brion wine tastes different from a Château Mouton-Rothschild, and if you compare several vintages, that distinction remains. There is something either because of or in spite of all those variables that will give a Château Haut-Brion (or any great wine) some distinctive character. In the case of Haut-Brion, even my limited palate can pick it up.

So my question really isn't "will blackberry mead taste different between Florida and Oregon honeys?" I expect the answer to that is yes, though I could be wrong and would like to see it tested as the first part of this. My question is, "do each of these regions have something that makes their blackberry honey (and the mead) distinctive that carries through from year to year?"

If the differences due to weather and blooming of other plants, and beekeeping technique and such, causes each year's honey crop to be so different , then comparing Florida and Oregon blackberry mead over 2 years may be like comparing 4 entirely different meads. Perhaps there won't be something that you can smell and taste that say, "this one's from Oregon." If there is, then that is honey (or mead as it were) terroir.

afdoty
07-09-2009, 07:15 AM
So my question really isn't "will blackberry mead taste different between Florida and Oregon honeys?" I expect the answer to that is yes, though I could be wrong and would like to see it tested as the first part of this. My question is, "do each of these regions have something that makes their blackberry honey (and the mead) distinctive that carries through from year to year?"

Thank you... that's an excellant summary. I game, lets do it.

Medsen Fey
07-09-2009, 08:22 AM
Ken's suggestion to compare honey from within a region to push this idea a step further is an excellent one. I still want to try to demonstrate a distinction between regions using the same variety of honey if it can be done. If it is possible to do so, then it would be very interesting to try to compare varietal honey within a region to see down to what level you can identify the source of a honey in a mead.

afdoty
07-09-2009, 08:18 PM
Ken's suggestion to compare honey from within a region to push this idea a step further is an excellent one. I still want to try to demonstrate a distinction between regions using the same variety of honey if it can be done. If it is possible to do so, then it would be very interesting to try to compare varietal honey within a region to see down to what level you can identify the source of a honey in a mead.

Unless there were complete control over the hives, it would be next to impossible to control "quality" within a geographical region. I've talked to several apiaries, who are relatively small operation and they keep their hives within an area...the New Hampshire seller’s stays within NH and MA. However, like Ken said, the differences in the hives themselves will effect the honey.... the processing...errrrrrrr. How do you maintain a regional control? I see bee hives in my future........:rolleyes:

wildoates
07-09-2009, 09:25 PM
Al, I don't know what you do for a living, but you're a scientist at heart.

:)

afdoty
07-10-2009, 06:49 AM
Al, I don't know what you do for a living, but you're a scientist at heart.

Mechanical Engineer… Work in a test group for a Helicopter Manufacturer. I design test equipment/machines...devices of doom and destruction.

wildoates
07-10-2009, 10:05 AM
This explains everything, Al. You and Aaron both have the same scientific brain and it shows in everything you do/want to do--you just can't help but tinker with the mead ingredients/procedures, and since you're well-trained, you can't help but do it scientifically.

Lotta brainiacs on this site.

What am I doing here????

Of to the Monterey Bay Aquarium!

(DARPA?)

akueck
07-10-2009, 11:47 AM
Lotta brainiacs on this site.


It's well-known that alcohol fuels the PhD process, and that PhD students are poor. It's a natural fit, and I started 6 months into grad school after being introduced to the idea in the first month at a MSE grad student homebrew party. At the time, about 15% of the department brewed. I think the number is larger now.

afdoty
07-10-2009, 03:21 PM
Of to the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Ahhhhh Man! I love the Monterey Bay Aquarium....nothing like a walk up Canery Row.................

wayneb
07-15-2009, 04:31 PM
I was just there last week (Cannery Row and the Aquarium). Man, that place has sure changed since my first time out there in the early 80's. And not for the better. It has a certain "Disney-esque" quality about it, and far too many people, these days IMHO.

wildoates
07-15-2009, 05:05 PM
That's why I don't go very often anymore, even though I get tickets to the MBA for free. We got there at opening, and were done by the time the crowds got really bad. I was there on Friday. :)

So...can this honey test be pulled off, or no?

(see how diligently I try to get back on topic?! :))

Medsen Fey
07-15-2009, 05:26 PM
I haven't been able to get Florida Blackberry honey yet. I'm still trying. I'm also checking Georgia. When we get a source of honey, I'd really like to see this tested.

BeeFolks
07-17-2009, 12:01 AM
This is part of a answer I sent to a request for Blackberry Honey from different parts of the country. If I am misunderstanding the concept of terroir, please let me know!

From a beekeepers perspective, here is my take (I'll publish this on the thread as well):

Honey from the exact same location and collected at the same time of year, year after year, can have wildly fluctuating flavors. Let me give two examples:

1. Wildflower, from my own apiary, when I was closer to Baltimore. The main honey plants were Black Locust, which produces a light honey with a bit of harsh aftertaste, and Tulip Poplar, which produces a dark, strong tasting honey. They bloom one after the other. Usually, the lighter color wins out. However, if it rains during the Black Locust bloom, you will definitely have a darker color - and stronger tasting - honey.

2. Snowberry, from Oregon - In good years, it produces a light, sweet honey, similar to butterscotch. In a drought, the nectar gets concentrated, and the result is a dark, caramel-molasses type honey.

What can be derived from this is, all things being equal, and global warming not being a concern, honey collected from the exact same place under the exact same environmental conditions will be exactly the same every year. This does not occur in practice because the weather is too much of an unknown. It controls not just the quality of the flower and the nectar, but the bee's ability to collect it as well.

Does that mean you can tell what apiary and what year the honey came from? Maybe, but probably not. In the case of a wildflower, there are simply too many variations. How are you to know it came from my apiary, and not my neighbors? Or someone in a similar set of environmental conditions. Example: We sell our Wildflower Honey to people looking for "local honey" for allergies. The botanical makeup in this geographical region is similar from Northern Virginia to Southern Pennsylvania. You know us well enough to know that we do not push a sale, but when people come calling looking for honey that is "within 20 miles of where I live, because that is what my doctor told me to buy", they usually walk away with what we have.

In the case of a single floral source honey - maybe. If you have a good enough tongue, are familiar with a lot of apiaries, are certain that the honey is not blended, and are certain that you are not looking at a conglomeration of honey from a lot of local sites. For example - a beekeeper may pollinate 2-6 different blueberry fields, pull all the honey of, bring it back to his extraction site, and extract it into one large pot. The "large pot" may even be a conglomeration of several beekeepers, operating from several fields.

I'm assuming that you are asking for Florida Blackberry to compare against Oregon Blackberry? Again, keep in mind, there are different variations of berries, fruits, etc. Using Orange Blossom as an example - this includes everything from navals and juice oranges to tangerines and lemons and limes. One beekeeper may pollinate several groves, toss the honey into the same pot, and call in Orange Blossom. I have tasted a remarkable difference in Orange Blossom Honey between California and Florida. By the same token, I have heard California beekeepers comment that Orange Blossom Honey tastes different from different parts of California, and they attribute it to the types of citrus grown.

The concept of terroir is an interesting question, though. I do not think I can help you with the honey on this one, sad to say. The beekeepers I deal with are simply too large. You would need a small beekeeper, preferably one who is pollinating his own farm. You would need to know exactly what the bees where pollinating that year, since rain can vary the plants the bees attend. Quite an undertaking, to control so many aspects.

As for Blackberry Honey in Florida - I am unaware of any fields of blackberries large enough in Florida to produce single floral source Blackberry Honey. Your better bet would be with Orange Blossom (Florida, California and Texas), Blueberry (Maine and New Jersey), Buckwheat (New York and Midwest), or Fireweed (Oregon and Alaska).

And on the topic of Buckwheat - it is the belief among the beekeepers that the variations found in Buckwheat Honey are the results of GM crops vs more "natural" crops. The closer the seed is to the original buckwheat, the darker, thicker, and stronger the honey becomes.

Thinking about it, a number of bee clubs have scholarship money they hand out, you just need to ask. Central Maryland Beekeepers Association, Maryland State Beekeepers Association, USDA Beekeeping lab in Beltsville, MD are but a few. This would be a good project to approach them with a proposal. With the USDA, you might be able to find a college intern who would be willing to help in exchange for publication rights. If you can coordinate a couple sets of beekeepers across the US, you could easily develop a 2-5 year trial, not including brewing and drinking time.

Hope this gives you something to think on. I'll try to post this to GotMead tonight.

Lori Titus
The Bee Folks

wayneb
07-17-2009, 10:47 AM
Lori, that was an excellent description of why the variance in honey from the same locale from year to year, or even within one season, might have far more influence on the flavor profile of honeys (and the meads made from them) than would be seen in taste comparisons of honeys from different locations.

That said, I still find that east coast (Florida) and west coast (So Cal) orange blossom honeys do seem to me, to be consistently different from one another from year to year. I find the west coast OB to be more "floral," and that from the east coast to be slightly less overpowering in aroma but a slight bit more "fruity," consistently no matter what year the harvest has been from. Then there's the obvious differences between eastern and western buckwheat honeys. So I still think that a terroir experiment such as the one proposed here might have merit - at least when using monofloral honeys produced from large expanses of the same, or similar, plants.

I like your suggestion of getting beekeeper-based research sponsored - that could be just the incentive to actually make something like our proposed experiment a reality.

Medsen Fey
07-17-2009, 02:49 PM
Does that mean you can tell what apiary and what year the honey came from? Maybe, but probably not. In the case of a wildflower, there are simply too many variations. How are you to know it came from my apiary, and not my neighbors? Or someone in a similar set of environmental conditions.

In the case of a single floral source honey - maybe. If you have a good enough tongue....


Lori, thanks for the great thoughts. You've hit the question squarely. First, can you identify consistently mead made from different localities from year to year, and if so, down to what range can you do it? State? Region? County? Apiary?

I love the idea of getting some funding for a mead research project. That would be.......sweet? :)

Medsen

andrewschwab
07-17-2009, 11:17 PM
I agree totally, the honey is never exactly the same from year to year. Cause the growing conditions are always different. (much like vintage) But I have been doing it long enough in this one area to be able to tell what the honey will be like before I even pull it.

Also the way the honey is handled makes a difference. I don't total agree with the way Ken suggested to handle honey... I see no reason to freeze it. Keep it in a cool location, yes. When it granulates never, ever,ever go above 105 degrees. It may take a long time for some honey to come back around, BUT it does not effect flavour, or aroma that way. Besides good things to those who wait.:rolleyes:

Well this was not a great honey year for my area, but I will set some aside in case this gets off the ground floor. Would like to see it happen myself. Don't care what honey is choosen, it won't hurt my feelings if you don't use blackberry.

Oh ya, there are different blackberry plants, my honey comes from the blackberry that grows everwhere wild. Don't know what kind it is :p

But it makes good blackberry port and it is free and everywhere.