Grapes + fermentation = wine. Right? Sure. But fermented grapes can also end up as brandy, schnapps, beer… and even gin.
Most of the gin you drink originates with a neutral grain spirit: wheat, barley, rye, etc. Each grain results in a base spirit with different characteristics that affect the end product.
It’s no different with grapes. Just like different wines made from different grapes from different terroirs taste different, so will a gin a made with grape spirit versus one made with a grain spirit - or a rice, corn or beetroot spirit for that matter.
At the end of the day, the potential combinations of base spirit, distillation method, and botanicals in gin production are seemingly endless. And that’s what makes gin so damn fascinating!
Here are five gins from different countries that are grape-based.
When you think of grape spirits, your mind likely turns first to Cognac for its fine brandies. And that’s exactly the French region from which G’Vine hails. In the French façon d’être, G’Vine has always been different, claiming the spot of “World’s first gin made from neutral grape spirit”. Using local Ugni Blanc from the September harvest, G’Vine takes the resulting wine and distills it to 96.4% ABV before infusing it with the vine flower - the beginnings of grape berries that only blossoms for a few days in mid-June. G’Vine has mixed this rare flavor with nine additional botanicals and has two product lines: Floraison and Nouaison.
The UK isn’t usually associated with grape-based alcohols, but Chilgrove’s grape spirit-based gin is “Gloriously English.” The base spirit might be different from the standard grain spirits, but the botanicals are not. With a number of distillers vying to seep the most exotic herbs and spices in their base spirits, Chilgrove went back to basics to make a London Dry with “sophisticated, approachable, modern flavours.”
Paso Robles, in the heart of California vineyard country, makes some of North America’s best wines. So it’s not surprising that the town’s Villicana Winery decided to make grape-based neutral spirit when it branched out into vodka and gin. Re:Find vodka begins by distilling the vineyard’s red-wine grapes and transforms into gin in its copper still with botanicals sourced primarily from the region’s farms.
Canada is known mostly for its moose, its hockey and its whisky. So what is Dillon’s Small Batch Distillers doing making a gin with grapes instead of antlers, broken teeth or rye? The Ontario-based outfit uses a base spirit made of the local Niagara Grape to produce an opaque elixir. Why opaque? Because Dillon’s Gin is unfiltered, it “preserves and exposes new flavours” that the distiller claims should be served alone as a martini as the gin does not have “the need to get dirty or be embarrassed by a vermouth.” Unfiltered Gin 22 didn’t cloud the eyes of the judges at this year’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition - they awarded it a Double Gold Medal.
Dillon’s is not the only grape-based gin to win a double gold. The Washington State-based spirits maker, Heritage Distilling Company, garnered a similar honor at the FiftyBest.com’s International Tasting in New York in 2013 for its Soft Gin. Heritage says its gin pride is served best with summer cocktail recipes such as a Collins and garnished with the likes of blood oranges and tarragon.