View Full Version : How to achieve 'complexity' & 'structure'

07-07-2011, 03:09 AM
I was wondering if anyone has any tips for how to achieve what I would call complexity & structure in mead. I've had some meads before that taste OK but are somewhat 'flat' or bland tasting. I'm a wine drinker and want to get something equivalent to a nice full bodied California Cabernet. I enjoy how the tannins and acid balance each other and especially how the tannins & oak can give very complicated flavors that almost dance on your tongue, and have a long finish, etc., etc.

Anyway does anyone have any advice on how to get the 'mead equivalent' of this?

Dan McFeeley
07-07-2011, 10:30 AM
For a basic mead, no added frills, you can get complexity by careful choice of yeast strain, and use of varietal honeys having had as little processing as possible. Straight from hive to carboy is a best of all possible mead worlds, with no heat used to make the honey easier to process and package. Age can reduce the fine nuances of flavor in honey that create complexity, average shelf life for a good honey in this sense is about two years, per Edith Crane. Blending various kinds of varietal honeys will also add complexity.

It's also important not to confuse "structure" in wine with "structure" in mead. The balance of acids, tannins, sugars and alcohol creating structure in wine is not the same thing as in mead -- the acids are different and you don't have the tannin content found in wine. Mead is simply a different beverage, a wine by definition but not exactly a wine made from honey.


07-07-2011, 10:31 AM
You may simply be experiencing meads that haven't been aged enough to come into their own, or those that haven't been treated well post-fermentation. However, keep in mind that while the chemistry and the organoleptic properties of mead are in some ways fundamentally different from grape wines (so expecting a mead to taste like a wine is a setup for disappointment), the body, balance and complexity of the best meads can rival that of grape wines.

The short answer to your specific question is, try to develop your recipes by choosing adjunct ingredients to try to achieve that complexity and structure.

Since you use cabernet as an example of what you like in grape wines, I assume you're not opposed to making a dry melomel (honey plus various fruit adjuncts). There are several recipes here (although admittedly most of the best ones are visible only to patrons) that are excellent examples of how a dry melomel made with dark red fruit can be as intriguing as any grape wine. However, even traditional meads (just honey, yeast, a little nutrient and water) can approach the complexity of analogous white wines, with a little careful handling post-fermentation (research sur-lie and oak aging techniques here and you will learn more).

07-07-2011, 03:02 PM
I think that what Wayne posted is a good approach if you're trying to make your mead into a Cabernet-styled mead.

If your question was more of an equivalency in body, mouthfeel and structure then I would advise the following:

In order to make great wine the ingredients have to be great as well. You can't make good wine from bad grapes. The same is true with mead. I get a lot of people asking me about how to do good mead on the cheap. I invariably tell them you can't. The quality of the honey you use will dictate the quality of your end product, along with the character, and complexity.

As Dan indicated your choice of varietal and yeast strain will also play a major role in the end product. Matching up the right yeast with the right varietal honey is key to getting the most out of your batch. Another factor is your fermentation and how it is managed. You'll find countless posts here about managing your fermentation, nutrient dosing, aeration and managing the temperature during aging. Again, these are all key to the development of a complex and well structured mead as it ages.

Bottom line, the best ingredients along with attentive and timely fermentation management practices and patience during aging are key in making a well integrated, structured and complex mead.