Our story started more than two decades ago with a small batch of experimental mead, fermenting in a glass demijohn under the loft stairs. The mead was made from locally sourced honey, using an old recipe from our current meadmakers’ grandmother. The result was amazing: a golden honeyed nectar with the distinctive nutty, woody flavour of River Redgum honey.
Tasting the potential of this delicious drop, pioneering meadmaker and co-founder of The Old School Winery, Frits Massee, decided to take it to the next level. The glass demijohn under the stairs was soon replaced by a shed filled with oak barrels and small stainless steel tanks as Frits brought the techniques of modern small-batch, artisan wine production to the ancient, almost mystical craft of meadmaking. He established one of the first meaderies in Australia to explore and develop the potential of Australia’s unique honey varieties.
Now his family continues the tradition.
Making Our Mead
Mead is probably best known as the favoured drink of heroes in many myths and legends (and certain recent books and blockbuster movies!). Mead was first produced thousands of years ago in Africa and northern Europe. In fact, it vies with beer for the title of the world’s oldest alcoholic drink. It’s often mentioned in ancient and mediaeval texts, from Beowulf (one of the oldest poems in the English language) to the Viking sagas and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
Traditional mead styles vary from one country and region to another – there are sweet meads, dry meads, mead ales, high alcohol meads, meads with added fruit or spices or herbs – but basically, a mead is a honey wine, made by adding yeast to a honey solution. The yeast ferments the natural sugars in the honey and produces alcohol as a result. There’s a little more magic, art and science to the process of course, and good luck as well. Meadmakers and beekeepers keep an anxious eye on the weather, the blossoming of trees and the welfare of the bees.
Because we use regional honeys in our meads, you can taste not only the romance of the past, but also the results of the season, and the flavour of place.
From the rivers, forests and plains country of southwestern NSW and northern Victoria, we source honeys such as such as River Redgum, Yellow Box and Orange Blossom for our meads. Then the work (and magic!) of meadmaking begins.. . It’s both a craft and a science: the meadmaker has to draw on a blend of personal taste, experience, tradition, and the newly developing science of meadmaking. Meadmakers from mediaeval times would recognise much about our processes and product. But they would probably also be excited by new methods to control and enhance fermentation and reveal the subtle varietal characteristics of individual honeys, by adjusting factors such as yeast type, residual sugar and alcohol levels, and maturation time
Compared to grapes, honey can be fairly temperamental and challenging to ferment, and there is always the risk of a ‘stuck ferment’. But if all goes well, the winery fills with the warm fragrance of honey, and near the tanks, if you listen carefully, the quiet sound of foaming yeast can be heard. When all is satisfactory in the tanks, the ferment is complete and the yeast begins to settle out, the mead is then racked off and aged in oak barrels or stainless steel vats before bottling.
Enjoying our Mead
There are many ways to enjoy our mead…
Meads are particularly delicious served with a cheese platter or as an after dinner drink. Sweeter meads are perfect with dessert, or spiced and served as a hot mulled wine on cosy winter evenings – or as a festive treat. Indulge in warm spiced mead (perhaps served in one of our handmade mediaeval-style pottery mead beakers) with shortbread or ginger cake on the side, for a memorable Christmas in July party. If you feel a bit inventive and adventurous, try a refreshing glass of mead served over ice on a hot summer’s day, or create a mead-based cocktail. And if you love cooking, the rich, complex, mellow flavours of honey wine will add something special to your favourite recipes.
Like wine, mead should be stored in a cool dark place. But please don’t put it in the cellar and forget about it! Our meads are made to be enjoyed within a few years of purchase. We suggest that our table-wine style meads should be treated like white grape wine. For best results, once opened, place a clean air-tight stopper in the bottle and store in the fridge for up to 10 days. The fortified meads should keep well for several months once opened (if you can resist them that long!)
Producer-Wholesaler Licence No.24008153
It is against the law to sell or supply alcohol to, or to obtain alcohol on behalf of, a person under the age of 18 years. Our wine shipments require signature on delivery (or collection from Post Office) by the customer, who must be at least 18 years of age.