The Desrochers D. beekeeping farm has always been inspired by wine to make its meads. This inspiration takes on new meaning with its Beezz viticultural series: meads flavored with the skins of Quebec grapes.
When Naline Desrochers and Géraud Bonnet took over the family farm in 2008, the company had been producing honey spirits for 20 years. Naline’s parents used organic honey and no sulfites. But the young beekeepers wanted to highlight the vinous side of the mead, bring more freshness and completely remove the residual sugar from the cuvées.
To do this, they called on French winemaker and oenologist Florent Girou. Together, they performed over 400 tests. They bet on honeys harvested at different times of the year, commonly called seasonal honeys.
The couple of beekeepers is a pioneer, and still one of the only mead producers to ferment with natural yeasts. Again, the motivation came from a winemaker, Olivier Cousin de la Loire, because this practice is more widespread in the wine world.
“We had just done the first nature tests and we needed a kick-start to definitely immerse ourselves in this adventure,” recalls Mr. Bonnet.
Then, in 2016, the Desrochers D. beekeeping farm made a name for itself thanks to its Beezz series, made up of less strong alcoholic and finely sparkling meads. This time, beekeepers were inspired by bugey-cerdon, sparkling wines from the Savoie region of France.
This inspiration from the wine world became a collaboration two years ago. Just as brewers and cider makers are increasingly flavoring cuvées with grape skins, Naline Desrochers and Géraud Bonnet have created new meads with Quebec wine producers.
“We wanted to collaborate with our winemaker friends, but we couldn’t choose just one,” says the beekeeper. We decided to make a series with the three winegrowers we are closest to. »
The couple first called on Matthieu Beauchemin at Domaine du Nival. He wanted to use the skins of the Vidal grape variety in memory of the first wine that winemakers and beekeepers had drunk together. The exotic fruit aromas of vidal are very similar to those of spring honey. This is how the first honey wine in the Beezz viticultural series was born.
Then, to combine with the vanilla, cardamom and hazelnut aromas of autumn honey, the beekeepers chose Pervenches Chardonnay. “When you think of periwinkle, you think of chardonnay, that’s for sure, and with the subtly spiced autumn honey, it works too well,” remarks Bonnet.
The third mead in the series is prepared with grape marc from the Pinard et Filles vineyard. The drink’s subtly pink color comes from Frontenac Gris, whose flavors of citrus, raspberry and strawberry go wonderfully with summer honey.
Nearly 1,000 bottles of each cuvée have been produced in 2021. Beekeepers are considering replicating the concept during the 2023 harvest.
Géraud Bonnet does not hide it: mead is an unknown drink. Its marketing has long been difficult. As the majority of producers did not have enough bottles, they could not access the network of the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ). The law also banned them from selling in delis until 2016. This change has given the industry a boost, but there is still work to be done.
Mead is one of the oldest alcohols in the world, yet it is one of the least known. According to a survey conducted by the firm Léger last year on behalf of beekeepers, 40% of those questioned were unfamiliar with mead and 26% had never tasted it.
The beekeeper co-founded the Association of Producers of Meads and Honey Alcohols of Quebec (APHAMQ) three years ago. The group has grown from five to more than a dozen members. Beekeepers are working for a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) Hydromels du Québec to see the light of day soon.
Through this collaboration with wineries, the Desrochers D. Bee Farm hopes to change the perception of mead. “This wine series is the culmination of a journey to have meads accepted as real wines… of honey!” “, he launches.
Two copies of each Beezz viticultural cuvée make up the six-bottle mixed case sold for $132 (plus tax) on the Desrochers D Bee Farm website. The bottles, priced between $22 and $24, will be also available in delicatessens throughout Quebec at the end of June.
When Géraud Bonnet, from the Desrochers D. beekeeping farm, arrived at the Domaine du Nival to pick up the Vidal skins, the winemaker was emptying his vat of Gamaret, a red grape, and he offered to bring the skins as well. This beautiful coincidence made it possible to develop a red mead. This one has already been in the grocery store for a few weeks and it is worth the detour with its very fruity notes of raspberry and blueberry. As for the vidal-based mead, the intense flavors of honey fill the glass. Exotic fruits and a hint of bitterness give enough depth to bring the cuvée to the table.
All winegrowers say it: Frontenac is a very acidic grape variety. The combination is a winner with mead. The scents of red fruits and flowers are omnipresent on the nose. The lively and crisp attack whets the appetite. On the finish, notes of honey prolong the pleasure. Its delicate pink color is perfect.
The combination of chardonnay and mead is arguably the closest to the texture of wine. Its bouquet opens with notes of spices and on the palate, the drink is enveloping and almost rich.