Review: Bee d’Vine Honey Wine

BeeDvine_Brut_750_HIGHYou can make wine from just about anything, but honey wine has a long and rich history, dating back some 2000 years to Africa, where the honey seems to flow freely.

If you’ve ever had mead at a Renaissance festival (or your crazy uncle’s house), you basically know what you’re in for. Honey wine is essentially the same thing. Depending on who you ask, the addition of water to dilute the alcohol level is what separates mead from the lighter, gentler “honey wine.”

Bee d’Vine is a product made by The Honey Wine Company, based in San Francisco, California. The company’s fermented honey drink is blended in two varieties — a dry Brut and a sweeter Demi-Sec version. (Those terms are typically used with sparkling wines, but Dee d’Vine is still, not fizzy.) They were produced in 2013, but regulations prevent the inclusion of vintage dates on non-grape wines.

How you enjoy them will depend on your tolerance level for exotic oddities in your gullet. Thoughts follow.

Also of note: The company supports farming and environmental initiatives in California and in Ethiopia, the birthplace of honey wine.

(Updated 11/23 with factual corrections to The Honey Wine Co.’s location and its charitable initiatives.)

Bee d’Vine Brut Honey Wine – A dusty, earthy nose offers a dusting of familiar honey character but the overwhelming character is one of low-grade white wine, a muddy mix of old apples, earth, simple florals, and industrial elements. It’s pleasant enough at first — particularly when ice cold — but you have to be utterly nuts about honey to polish off a full glass once the more raw components take hold. D+ / $43

Bee d’Vine Demi-Sec Honey Wine – A semi-sweet expression of this wine, and probably more in keeping with what you’d be expecting of a product made out of honey. The nose is similar to the Brut — earthy and a bit musty, with honey overtones. The body blends its honey character with something akin to orangey Muscat wine, leading to a finish that is at first sweet but which quickly fades to an unwieldy combination of syrup and mud. C- / $43

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4 Responses

  1. Ayele Solomon November 23, 2014 / 3:28 pm

    Dear Chris/blogger,

    After winning 8 medals at international competitions (including two golds and “best in class” designations) since our May 2014 launch, a Wine Enthusiast Editor describing our Brut as “simply sexy,” and a request to be tasted on the national TODAY Show, it was rather spicy to get our first review negative review describing our wine as “mud” and ascribing a “D+” grade – on you blog.

    Taste is very personal, so and I treat both positive and negative reflections the same; I don’t dwell on them. Personally I would use a different set of descriptors than you have. Aside from the fact that is sounds vulgar (to my taste, but again, taste is personal), I don’t know of anyone who eats mud, so it is not a useful descriptor to your reader since non of them will be able to relate a taste to it. Surely your readers don’t eat mud?

    Also, at 3.1pH you may be the only person on earth who tastes “syrupy” – another word you used – every other review says the opposite (eg “crisp”), so are definitely an outlier when it comes to tasting acid.

    Finally, you mention and assume “blended,” there is nothing indicating as such and the two are not blends of one another.

    The real point of my response is to point out some factual errors, we are not based in St. Helena, our wine maker on record, Wayne Donaldson is (copied). San Francisco is on every single page of our website (and in my correspondences with you), so I am surprised you missed it. Also, the environmental initiatives you mention as being in Ethiopia, but they are also in California/USA to address bee colony collapse CCD (Ethiopia and US initiatives are funding in equal amounts) and again both are prominently displayed on our site (I SEE THAT YOU’VE CORRECTED THESE). There is also a legal difference with the definition of honey wine vs mead, so your description on this point is also not accurate. You made a new change saying Ethiopia is the birthplace of honey wine, this has not been established, the material I sent you indicated that oral history did spring up in Ethiopia and Europe around 2,000 years ago, but there is physical evidence of honey as a fermentable in China 7,000 years ago.

    I hope you can at least articulate the facts correctly on your next blog review, whomever it may be for.

    I will post these remarks on your blog in the response area; I trust you will let the erratum stand in it’s entirety for a fair and accurate description of our business, and for the benefit of your esteemed readers.

    Best wishes,

    Ayele Solomon
    Founder & Managing Member
    Bee d’Vine / The Honey Wine Company LLC
    901 Mission Street, Suite 105
    San Francisco, CA 94103

  2. Christopher Null November 23, 2014 / 11:38 pm


    While I appreciate your comments, I would like to offer some notes in response:

    > A request to be tasted on the TODAY Show is not a mark of quality. Kathie Lee Gifford and Al Roker are not noted wine critics.

    > There is massive confusion over the difference between honey wine and mead — as I noted. Even K&L sells your product as “mead,” so perhaps you have more education to do here:

    > “Mud” is a very useful descriptor, in my opinion. As I’m sure you know, many wine/spirits tasting descriptors are not edible products, including things like cedar, smoke, “forest floor,” and oak — all of which are popular in reviewers’ notes. In fact, your very own tasting notes printed on your website read, “The combination of spring water and honey make it abuzz with a lively minerality; imagine the scent of soil, immediately after an evening summer rain in the proximity of a jasmine bush in bloom.” I don’t know anyone who eats minerals, soil, summer rain, or jasmine bushes — but all of these are valid notes. (P.S. Wet “soil” = “mud” where I live.)

    > “Blended” was perhaps a poor choice of words. “Marketed” would have been a better one.

    > I understand you disagree with my evaluation, as have other critics, but I have only my palate to be my guide, and my audience is the consumer, not the producer. I freely submit to being proven wrong by the market. That said, I stand by my review.

    Humbly yours,


  3. Robert November 24, 2014 / 6:30 am

    I’ve had both of these Bee D’vine honey wines and enjoyed them very much. The noses are clean, crisp and floral. The flavors are light and pleasing. The flavors are definitely not muddy (I think CN means muddled not muddy). I can see if you are used to drinking a lot of hard liquor this wine is not for you. It lacks the tannin found in grape wine and I found the contrast to grape wine quite pleasing. They should pair great with light and/or spicy food. I recommend these wines and would grade the dry one a B+ and and sweet one an A-.

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