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Our Newsletter

Varietal Honey: "gout de terroir"

One of the most common conversations we have with people who visit us at the farmer’s market is about the fact that not all honey is the same. It’s remarkable how many times after having tasted our honeys I hear the phrase: ”I didn’t know there were so many different kinds of honey!”

We feel that honey is often misunderstood and underestimated as an artisan ingredient in food.

In fact, there are more than 300 unique types of honey available in the United States (more than any other country in the world!), each originating from different floral source. And that number doesn’t include honeys that have a blend of floral sources, but have a distinct flavor profile based on the location of the hive (ex: downtown Denver).

To explain the variations of honey flavors I like to make the analogy to wine.

For wines, it’s all about the grapes. And the grapes used to make wine could take on different characteristics depending upon the French concept called gout de terroir, or “taste of place”. Terroir is what dictates the taste of the wine – and it depends on the geographic location, soil, the weather (was is a drought year?) – all of which gives each wine its unique, individual, complicated profile and personality.

The same is true for honey. A honey’s flavor profile will vary not only from year to year but also from hive to hive. The exact same field of flowers, if produced by two different hives that stand right next to each other, can bear honey that is completely different in color, flavor, texture, and aroma.

As long the beekeeper doesn’t mix all of the honeys together (and then heat/filter/process them), and instead uses traditional methods emphasizing quality and character (instead of quantity and homogeneity) – the complex regional variations come through in taste!

All Grampa’s Gourmet honeys have distinct “terroir”. It’s the flavors of the San Luis Valley in a jar. This region is an amazing place to practice traditional migratory beekeeping to produce varietal honeys because we have access to vast fields of very distinct floral sources to place our hives around.


"Our Taste of Place" San Luis Valley (picture via Gareth Llewellin, 2010)