Whether you’re a newlywed or celebrating your diamond wedding anniversary, you cannot help but feel like a honeymooner on Hilton Head Island—from romantic bike rides on its beaches to its unforgettable sunsets, from its fine dining or secluded picnic spots. But have you ever wondered where the term “Honeymoon” comes from?
Long before champagne toasts and scotch tastings became fixtures at modern weddings, newlyweds celebrated their special day with honey wine—commonly referred to as mead. Today, mead conjures images of Vikings and warrior feasts in Valhalla. But, in fact, cultures the world over have enjoyed this naturally produced beverage to mark special occasions, especially wedding feasts. In ancient societies, wedding guests gave the newlywed couple a month’s supply of honey wine to ensure the first month of marriage was both joyous and fertile.
And while wedding customs have evolved since our ancestors took their first honeymoons, honey wine’s appeal remains timeless. With infinite local varieties and recipes, honey wines offer infinite possibilities for wine and beer lovers seeking incredible new adventures.
So what exactly is the difference between “honey wine” and “mead”? With so many recipes and local traditions, some will argue they are the same thing. Others will tell you there are major difference involving everything from place of origin and cultural beliefs, to the ratio of ingredients and fermentation process. However, everyone agrees the name matters less than the taste!
Honey wine or mead is fermented with three basic ingredients: honey, yeast and water. It isn’t classified as beer or wine in the typical sense, but stands apart in its own rank of alcoholic beverage. You can find sweet meads, dry honey wines, still or sparkling.
Honey wines have many names, depending on the ingredients and where it was produced. When juice or fruit such as blackberries and raspberries are added, it is called a melomel. There is cyser, an apple-based mead; acerglyn, made with maple syrup; braggot, a mead/beer blend brewed with hops or barley; and a rhodomel, a very old style laced with roses.
Ancient history has become a cutting-edge industry in the United States. Meaderys are springing up in almost every state offering signature styles of this beverage, while breweries such as Dogfish Head and Rogue are offering honey-infused beers and braggots.
Inspired by Hilton Head’s own Lowcountry traditions, Island Winery is proud to release our first Elderberry Honey Wine. For centuries, the Island’s local Gullah population has made a delightful wine from the sea isles’ abundant elderberry bushes. Their clusters of small dark purple berries combine with local wildflower honey wine to make a luscious, semi-sweet wine with a refreshingly tart finish.
Whether you’re a honeymooner, a wine lover or both, sample your own bottle of Elderberry Honey wine and discover a delightfully authentic flavor of Hilton Head Island.
The perfect bottle of handcrafted artisan wine awaits at Island Winery on Cardinal Road. Complimentary tastings, wine by the glass and cheese platters are available Monday-Saturday from 12:30-5:30 p.m. and Sunday, 12-4 p.m. Call (843) 842-3141 or visit