Mead: you’ve probably never heard of it, never tried it, or never think about it. It’s fermented honey that turns into a strong, sweet wine, and while it’s rarely on bar menus or in liquor cabinets, Melovino Meadery in Vauxhall is aiming to change all of that.
Last weekend I went to a tour and tasting at Melovino, which is tucked behind the Staples and Walgreens at the Millburn Village Mall, and was surprised to find that mead was something I wanted to hear about, try, and think about more.
A little background: mead is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages in the world, with evidence that people were tipping it back 8,000 years or so ago. The core ingredients are honey, water, and yeast—though you can get fancier about it, and the folks at Melovino do.
But they had to get fancy about bringing mead to NJ at all. Melovino claims to be the first and only meadery in Jersey. They know this because when they approached the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control for a license to make and sell mead in the state…no such thing existed. Meadmaker Sergio Moutela had to go to the ABC offices and make an in-person presentation to convince the agency to create and issue the license. I’m guessing they let the ABC folks have a few sips, too, because who wouldn’t issue a license to have more of this stuff in NJ?
Which brings me to the mead itself. It’s good! And especially the basic meads—Melovino’s Swinger and Essence blends—have a honey bouquet and sweet, smooth taste and feel. It’s somewhere between a riesling and dessert wine, which the meadmakers say will pair well with mains and desserts.
Melovino is also moving beyond the basics: they have meads that are oaked in barrels, blended with fruit juices, and (currently fermenting but coming in March) meads made with hot peppers that promise a drinkable blend of heat and sweet that got the attention of everyone in the room.
“Our main focus at the meadery is making mead that our fans will love, and that we would love to drink too,” the Melovino folks say. “That means nothing but quality ingredients, mastered recipes, and a fully hands-on approach in our meadmaking process.”
Melovino offers regular meadery tours and tastings, on-site retail of all the varieties they make, and has an MV Club for discounts on larger orders. The tour is entertaining, the business is thoroughly local, and the meads are tasty and reasonably priced—so let us all drink mead!
Photos: Ted Axelrod, Axelrod Photography