I'm preparing to start on a mead, and want it to be fairly simple, with a taste as close to honey as possible. I have tried a couple of commercial meads, and my favorite so far has to be Lurgashall's English Mead. It tastes, looks, and smells like honey but has a nice alcohol kick and is sweet but not cloyingly so.
For my own mead, I would like to make something in the range of 14% - 16% ABV. I plan on aging it for at least 4 years before drinking. I have a 6 gallon carboy and 1 gallon demijohn, so I would like to make about 7 gallons to give me a little extra for topping up. Before getting started, I am wondering about the following:
- Due to the incredibly high cost of honey in my area, I am planning on the majority of my honey to be wildflower. I will then blend this with progressively smaller quantities of clover, orange blossom, manuka, and finally beechwood honey dew (a rather dark honey) until I reach the desired SG. Okay so far?
- Does about 3 lb (1.5 kg) per gallon sound about right? I think I should be shooting for a SG of about 1.100 (which is the SG I aimed for when making my wines); should this be higher?
- As I have already stated, I am aiming for as pure a honey mead as possible. However, I of course want to balance acidity and other factors. What kind of quantity of yeast nutrients and tannins should I use? Should I use raisins to add body? If so, how many grams per gallon?
- I plan on fermenting to dryness, and then topping up with a honey water mixture between rackings (once I have used up my topping up material, anyway). I would like to continue doing this until the yeast is eventually overpowered and dies out. I do not care how long or how many rackings this takes.
- What kind of yeast should I use? I have used Lalvin EC-1118 for a peach wine in the past, but I have the feeling this will push up the ABV a bit too much. I have also used Cote de Blancs for a mixed berry red but the fermentation seemed to go rather slowly (mind you, I haven't tasted the red yet). What would give me the desired ABV while allowing me to continue honey feeding until the yeast is overpowered and I can obtain the desired sweetness?
- I plan to ferment at carefully controlled temperatures (about 18 C for 2 to 3 months). However, for bulk aging followed by bottled aging, can I expect any taste degradation by temperature swings? I obviously cannot maintain air conditioned conditions for 4 years! The temperature swing would likely range from about 12 C to 28 C depending on the season. Is this likely to affect the quality of the finished product?
- For my wine making experiences, I have done fermentation in a brewer's bucket for 7 to 10 days, and then racked to a carboy. Should I do the same thing with mead, or is this step unnecessary? Skipping this first step and starting with the carboy would be a welcome time saver. However, I do worry about foaming overflows.
Based on your advice, I will try to come up with a decent recipe which hopefully we can fine-tune to perfection together.
Thanks in advance for your advice!