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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » March 27, 2013
Regional and Traditional Products
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Mead With the EU Logo
March 27, 2013   
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The inclusion of Old Polish meads on the EU’s Traditional Specialties Guaranteed list has contributed to growing consumption of these refined alcoholic beverages in Poland and abroad.

The mead-making tradition in Poland is more than 1,000 years old and has resulted in a very diverse product. As production methods were developed and improved over the centuries, many kinds of mead appeared. The history of mead production dates back to the beginnings of Poland’s history as a state.

In 966, Spanish diplomat, merchant and traveler Ibrahim Ibn Jakub reported that in the country of Mieszko I, Poland’s first historical ruler, “next to food, meat and arable land there is an abundance of honey, and the Slavic wines and inebriating beverages are called meads.” The chronicles of Gallus Anonymus, who outlined the history of Poland at the turn of the 11th and 12th centuries, also contain numerous mentions of mead production.

Poland’s national epic, Pan Tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz, a tale about the gentry set in 1811-1812, contains quite a bit of information about the production, ways of drinking and kinds of mead. Mention of mead is also made, for example, in the poems of Tomasz Zan (1796-1855) and in Henryk Sienkiewicz’s trilogy of novels about Poland in the 17th century (With Fire and Sword from 1884, The Deluge from 1886 and Fire in the Steppe from 1887 and 1888).

Source materials on the culinary traditions of Poland in the 17th and 18th centuries provide not just general mentions of mead but also describe the different varieties. Depending on the production method, meads were divided into Półtorak (literally “one-and-a-halfers”), Dwójniak (from “two”), Trójniak (from “three”) and Czwórniak (from “four”) types. Each name refers to a mead made with a different ratio of honey to water or juice and with a different maturing period.

The traditional division of meads into Półtorak, Dwójniak, Trójniak and Czwórniak types has existed in Poland for centuries and survives in consumers’ awareness to this day. After World War II attempts were made to regulate the traditional division into four categories through legislation. Ultimately the division became official in 1948, set down in the law on the production of wines, wine must and mead, and on trade in these products. This law gives specific recipe guidelines for the production of mead, defining the proportions of honey to water and certain technological requirements. Półtorak, the most refined mead, contains one unit of volume of honey per half a unit of water in the end product. Czwórniak is a mead in which the ratio is one part honey to three parts water. According to traditional Polish recipes, for the product to have the proper quality, strict rules of maturing and mellowing have to be followed. For traditional Polish Półtorak mead this is at least three years.

Mead gives Polish producers a good opportunity to make a name for themselves on the international market for alcoholic beverages. To make sure that these products preserved their original flavor and recipes, Polish producers long sought for them to be protected by the EU.

The application to register the name as a Traditional Specialty Guaranteed was submitted by the National Council for Wine and Mead Making back in 2005. In 2008 the European Commission entered four traditional Polish meads on the list: Czwórniak, Trójniak, Dwójniak and Półtorak.
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