KELOWNA - So is it the current Viking craze, Game of Thrones mania or just plain old hipsters that have thrust the ancient beverage mead back into the modern world?
Judie Barta isn’t exactly sure but what she does know is that she can barely keep up with demand for the honey wine she makes in her East Kelowna meadery.
“Right now, that’s my entire inventory right there on that shelf,” Barta says, pointing to a few dozen bottles done up with fancy labels of what could easily be mistaken for Okanagan wine.
Except that it isn’t wine. Nor is it beer or cider or spirits, a catagorical problem that has plagued her since she opened Meadow Vista Honey Wine, the Okanagan’s only meadery, in 2009.
“The question has always been where do we fit in?” says Barta, who describes herself as a serial entrepreneur who specializes in spotting trends.
She certainly seems to have nailed this one, sitting as mead does right now at the intersection of some hot cultural currents.
“Mead sales are growing 30 per cent a year in North America," she says.
Barta has certainly seen hipsters, Game of Thrones fans and wanna-be Vikings all come into her tasting shop on June Springs Road.
“Certainly Game of Thrones and its tremendous following have brought in more and more people who are interested in that medieval style,” she says.
Mead makers use the word ‘style’ to describe the ingredients used to make it. Traditional mead is just honey, water and fermentation.
“People say I want traditional mead, I want what the Vikings would drink,” she says, offering up a history lesson along with a sample of her product. “But traditional probably wouldn’t be what the Vikings were drinking. That would be more of a metheglin with spices or melomel style with fruit.”
If your perception of mead is a thick yellow, sweet, syrupy drink, Meadow Vista is the wrong meadery to search out.
Her array of award-winning honey wines, with names like Cloud Horse, Mabon, and Rubus, dance off the tongue and are more akin to sparking wines than something you glug back after pillaging a village.
Still Barta's not denying the connection and says Munnin’s Post, the new Viking-themed restaurant which recently opened in Kelowna, is a big customer. “They go through tons of our product.”
Barta says her wine line has recently made it into B.C. Liquore stores, putting big pressure on her output capacity.
“We’re making a 4,000 litre batch every four weeks,” she adds. “We went from a pallet a month, to one a week so we’ve really had to up our production."
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