New regulations will remove the restriction limiting the alcohol content of mead for sale in Estonia to 5%.
The amendment follows a proposal to the Ministry of Rural affairs from the Small Brewer's Union of Estonia, whose interests in producing mead from local raw materials is hindered by the prohibition on producing the liquor with an alcohol content higher than 5%.
Traditional honey mead (Estonian: mõdu) is a fermented drink whose main ingredients are honey, water and yeast. The fermentation process depends on the use of yeast, but using traditional methods yields a product with an alcohol content over 7%.
There is no restriction on ethanol (ie. alcohol) content under any European Union legislation. Commerically available mead can reach much higher levels of alcohol content than the current restriction, typically as high as 20%. Some Lithuanian meads, for instance, are notably higher in alcohol content even than that.
The rural affairs ministry has pointed out that when the production of stronger meads is permitted, it may develop the export of local products, add value to local raw materials, and help with innovation in new products.
There is also a possibility that stronger meads could provide a substitute for sherry or port, in which case it would be produced for the restaurant trade rather than retail, it is suggested.
There are currently two trade marked meads in the alcoholic products' regster, both made by local producers.
On the other hand, alcohol excise hikes in recent years have led to complaints about their negative impact on the alcoholic drinks sector, including smaller producers.
Translated by Ingrid Jans, Riina Litov and Toomas Lepasaar
Editor: Andrew Whyte