DON’T CALL IT MEAD. IT’S HONEY WINE…
We are super stoked for our next Meet Your Maker guest from the leading honey wine producer who sell their delicious beverages all over the world and are finally breaking into the Ontario market. Géraud Bonnet of Desrochers D will be visiting us from Quebec where he and his family produce what has been acclaimed as “the best honey wine in the world.”
Géraud focuses on producing the family’s honey wines the same way any skilled winemaker would, creating fresh, vibrant and beautiful wines that boast incredibly elegant acidity and balance, running the gamut from dry to sweet dessert wines. They do single harvests, they ferment the different honey separately and employ expert élevage techniques creating single varietal beverages. The family has been operating Ferme Apicole Desrochers bee farm since 1978 in the Upper Laurentians north of Montreal, with a strong focus on the terroir of the honey, employing organic processes and work closely with the surrounding farmers who also employ organic methods…because “non-organic” basically means “no bees.”
The results are pure, authentic and beautiful products that have captured the attention of critics locally and around the world including Eric Asimov from the The New York times who described Desrochers ‘Or d’Âge’, “a revelation of a honey wine that smelled like honey but tasted like sherry.” These honey wines are leaving the not-as-popular beverage ‘Mead’ in the dust and connecting to an audience of beverage drinkers who appreciate natural wines and wines with a sense of place.
On Thursday, July 26th from 6pm onward, Géraud will be hanging out at Midfield Wine Bar, pouring a range of his honey wines including a Pet Nat, a rosé, an incredibly elegant & dry white, a barrel aged dessert wine and a few more fun items. Our “Meet Your Maker” series is a casual, non-ticketed event, a chance for you to not only taste Desrochers’ honey wines but to also hang out with Géraud and chat with him about anything you’d like…like bees, or honey, or farming, or Quebec or the weather. We had to chance to quickly ask him some questions before setting up this event so if you want to learn a bit more then take a look below.
We hope you can join us for this unique event. While this is not a ticketed event, we highly recommend making reservations if you are coming in for dinner. Otherwise feel free to drop in later for a flight or two. Cheers!
What were you doing in France before moving to Quebec?
I graduated in Agricultural engineering and then started working as the director of the Beekeepers association in Corsica to manage the AOP (Appellation Origine Protégée) they have on their honeys, the widest in Europe and the more diversified in term of tastes and flowers harvested. The association was involved in research on honeys and palynology with a lab and a chair at the University of Corsica. We built a centre to breed and select the original honey bee of Corsica. Lot of training for beekeepers on honey qualities management. I was in charge of building the whole corsican strategy to develop honey production : training future beekeepers, breed Corsican bees for them, follow them in their establishment and development, control and promote the different categories of Corsican honeys, gather forces to sell honeys outside of Corsica in a valuable market.
I was also involved in the french technical and scientific institute for beekeeping.
What was your wife's family producing before you started working on the farm?
Naline's father and mother moved north to the Upper Laurentians at the end of the seventies to join a "happy community" during this back to earth era! They started taking care of bees at that time and developed the apiary during the 80's. They were the first to classify honey in terms of season and taste rather than just colors. That's how they caught the attention of chefs like Anne Desjardins (former Relais et Châteaux "l'Eau à la bouche") where Naline worked a lot as a waitress after that.
At the end of the 80's, they start making honeywines. The sweet barrel aged Cuvée de la Diable reached a big success from the middle of the 90's to the 2000's. Anicet, Naline's brother started taking care of the family bees in 2001 and got the organic certification in 2003. After that, the parents focused on honey wine production only and Naline came back in 2006, just before her mother started getting sick. I arrived in 2007 for an internship on the bees field and came back finally in 2008 when her father no longer had the desire to continue by himself.
Desrocher D has been acclaimed by critics as making "the best honey wine out there"; how many producers are out there and where are they?
In Quebec, around 20-25 mead producers; 2 big ones (in terms of quantities) close to Montreal, all the others spread throughout the province. In the USA, it's growing really fast right now, from 30 producers in 2003 to 300 in 2013.
The only times we took part in contests, we won :
- Montpellier (France) 2009 : gold, silver and bronze medals in different categories
- Wine align (Canada) 2016 : gold and silver medal in different categories
- Denver (Colorado) 2017 : gold medal for Blizz
And we are certainly the honey wines that are the most present in the cellar of gastronomical restaurants in Canada, France and even New York.
In 2017, Cartier perfume house released a new fragrance inspired by honey wines flavors and their "nez" (nose) choose Cuvée de la Diable and Or d'âge for all the press releases through the world.
We've been told that honey wine is a challenging product to sell. Why?
1. Because of bad experiences people could have had with bad mead. Mead can be hard to drink in my opinion when it's made with a lot of chemistric products as you could read in books about mead making, or when it's made too quickly with no breeding or stabilized artificially, or when you don't respect honey by heating it or when beekeepers want to make mead with altered honeys. Or when mead makers don't follow each kind of honey to find the way they have to express (example : making of dry honey wine with strong tasting honey without breeding.)
2. People sometimes also think it's too sweet (because we use honey and they don't understand the fermentation process in which the sugar could be all transformed in alcohol by yeast) or too strong in alcohol (like it could be in traditional mead in Europe).
3. People could think it's not a refined alcoholic beverage and more a medieval thing. That is why we are working on the opposite side of mead that we qualify more as honey wines : with dry, fine tasting and fresh honey wines with natural acidity. Naturally fermented, bred and bottled. The Beezz family is the completed experience to reach that idea : 5% alcohol, bone-dry and sparkling!
And some other reference material if you're REALLY keen:
https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/23/dining/natural-raw-wine-fair.html (at the end of the article)