WINE GUEST COLUMN
A taste of honey A beverage as old as civilization is finding inroads at one airline, and offers a tantalizingly sweet glimpse into the past by AYELE SOLOMON
he oldest fermented beverage is more than just part of history. It is history. Claude Lévi-Strauss, the French anthropologist, wrote that the invention of honey wine marked the point when humans moved “from nature to culture.” In addition to pedigree, honey wine has ubiquity. It is the only truly global beverage - besides milk and water. Wherever an ancient traveler wandered, the elixir made from just water and honey was available to quench a thirst, consummate a deal or marriage (it’s no accident that a “honeymoon” follows a wedding), or aid in cementing new friendships. So how did this come to be? When a beehive is exposed to rain and natural airborne yeast, this provokes fermentation. The resulting happy accident became honey wine that a traveling hunter-gatherer probably stumbled upon, which of course would have made this happy traveler a hometown hero - if not a god! Ancient honey wine was probably crude, and until now honey wines have not evolved significantly like grape wines. Before introducing a modern honey wine, The Honey Wine Company searched the world to decide where and how to create a modern version. Sonoma County, California, where you find the famous neighboring Napa and Sonoma grape-wine appellations, can develop and produce modern honey wine. Here, the Honey Wine Company spent five years in aging and fermenting trials to produce a uniquely universal version of honey wine: “The Honey Wine for Wine Lovers.” The Company settled on the aspirational word-play name, Bee d’Vine, and bottled the wine (after about a year aging) in both 375 milliliter and 750-milliliter sizes. Within six weeks of market release in 2014, Bee d’Vine was tasted on The Today Show on national American television and received a number of internationally acclaimed Gold Medals, magazine articles, and 93 Points rating from the Beverage Testing Institute. Wine critic Matt Kettmann from Wine
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Bee d’Vine Brut pairs well with several foods and is a refreshing aperitif
Enthusiast wrote, “If someone handed you this excellently intriguing honey wine and told you it was made from an obscure Italian white grape varietal, you’d probably believe them….it’s nutty nose is simply sexy, and its flavors are bright and light.” Unlike grape wines, honey wine has no tannins, and there is a significant portion of the population that cannot tolerate bitter tannins.
Occasions and Food Pairings
Now to imagine all honey wine tasting sweet is a perfectly understandable misconception. Yet, Bee d’Vine comes in dry “Brut” and semi-sweet “Demi Sec” varieties. Golden and brilliant in appearance, Bee d’Vine tastes floral, perfumed, nutty and waxy. Spring water and honey are its only ingredients, and aging in French oak give it a lively minerality. Bee d’Vine offers a highly versatile wine that pairs with practically any foods and even dishes that defy compatible wine pairings: “Brut” is an aperitif that could be offered to passengers as an alternative to champagne. It pairs well with seafood and foods that are traditionally difficult to pair, such as eggs, salads, and light cheeses. “Demi Sec” is a match for spicy foods – also notoriously difficult to pair with tannic grape wine. It complements desserts or serves as one. Both “Brut” and “Demi Sec” Bee d’Vine possess a light acidity that balances the honey notes and create a smooth finish. The lack of tannins means that it’s soft on the stomach - especially an empty stomach - as is typical of a boarding passenger. ICAO has set a goal of carbon-neutral airline growth from 2020. While not reducing direct emissions, by purchasing honey wine, and particularly Bee d’Vine, airlines can get ahead of the game and ensure passengers an environmentally friendly wine. The long-term goal for Bee d’Vine is to source honey from tropical forests around the world – creating high incomes from
prized honey which creates incentives for forest communities to preserve their trees (since bees collect nectar from the tree flowers). The Honey Wine Company mantras are “doing good has never tasted so good” and “TASTE CHANGE.” Conceivably every language in the world has a name for honey wine – the Honey Wine Company has chronicled 173 of those languages in a book called The Celebrated Story of Honey Wine, which was recently awarded the Gourmand prize for “Best in World” wine history book. The ebook or audiobook are available for free download on www.DiscoverHoneyWine. org or www.BeeDvine.com. Of those 170 languages, about 70 are languages of Ethiopia, where honey wine is still a national beverage today. So it is only fitting that Bee d’Vine is available as a service item on Ethiopian Airlines Business Class – flying to approximately 100 countries. Ayele Solomon operates The Honey Wine Company in San Francisco.