FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Honey Wine from Bee D’Vine

by Eunice Fried

Dec 1, 2018
December 2018

“DON’T CALL IT MEAD,” Ayele Solomon said. “It’s honey wine, the world’s oldest fermented drink.”

And honey wine is what the conservationist-turnedwinemaker labels the drink he makes in California. Ayele Solomon was born in Ethiopia, where honey wine, or t’ej, as it is called there, has been a national drink for more than 2,000 years. He came to the United States when he was 12, and since completing his master’s degree, worked in environmental and rural development.

Now in his 40s, he is devoted to making the goldenshaded drink of his native land in Sonoma County. Named Bee D’Vine, the label reads “honey wine.”

Unlike grapes that ripen in the fall, honey is harvested in April. Ayele ferments in the purest way, using simply honey, water and yeast; after fermentation, he ages his honey wines for 10 to 15 months in wine barrels. Some meads, on the other hand, add fruit and herbs to their honey fermentation, and many contain higher alcohol than Bee D’Vine’s 12.5 percent.

Bee D’Vine is made in two styles: brut and demi-sec. Tasting Bee D’Vine Brut recently, I found it quite dry despite its honey base, with a light aroma of vanilla emanating from its time in oak. It also presents tones of almond and is overall fragrant and brilliantly clear with a velvety smooth texture.

Bee D’Vine Demi Sec, Ayele’s sweeter honey wine, exudes a floral perfume; a hint of almond; full, fetching body; and as its name implies, is semisweet. A wellbalanced wine, its aroma and taste clearly echo its honey base and linger on in its finish.

Bee D’Vine honey wines come in two sizes. The 375 ml bottle costs $25. The 750 ml sells for $40.

Ayele is not the only American making wine from honey. Estimates suggest 120 others are doing the same thing. The major difference between them? The others call themselves meadists. Many ferment honey with other additions and label the products as mead, an Old English word.

True honey wine is just that, wine made solely of honey — as is Bee D’Vine.


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