"Wine has been part of human culture for 6,000 years, serving dietary and socio-religious functions. The history of mead dates back 20,000 to 40,000 years and has its origins on the African continent. In order to really understand the history of mead we need to go much further back in time.
The modern honeybee can be traced back using mitochondrial DNA sequence analysis to just over 1 million years ago, when it separated from its parent species. The honeybee has always gathered nectar and pollen and it has been engaged through the millennia in a battle against indigenous yeast. Low sugar content syrups such as nectar can experience spontaneous fermentation as a result of the action of wild yeast. This is not beneficial for the honeybee, since it needs the sugars of the nectar for its metabolism and life cycle. Enzymes in the bee's honey stomach convert the 12-carbon sugar, Sucrose, to two 6 carbon sugars, Fructose and Glucose. But this is only half the story. The bees learned through the millennia that by drying the honey and thereby increasing the osmotic pressure they could make their much-needed honey less and less suitable for fermentation by native yeast. But the battle raged on and some indiginous yeasts became osmotolerant, i.e. they could survive in environments of high osmotic pressure. The surviving yeasts became ideal yeasts for wine and beer fermentation.