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Let's talk about wine gins!

Let's talk about wine gins!

Feb 8, 2021
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Gin distillers find inspiration from the most amazing places these days, and for Jon and Nicole Durdin from Seppeltsfield Road Distillers, the amazing team behind our February 2021 Gin of the Month, the winemaking heritage of their home in South Australia’s Barossa Valley was too brilliant to ignore.

Their Barossa Shiraz Gin pays tribute to their home’s rich history of winemaking, and it’s just one of many gins on the market that take wine as an inspiration.

But how are wine gins made, and what can you expect from this exciting subcategory? Find out all the answers and more - including how to drink them! - below, but be warned, this feature may make you very thirsty!


Seppeltsfield Road Distillers’ Barossa Shiraz Gin
Seppeltsfield Road Distillers’ Barossa Shiraz Gin

What exactly is a wine gin?

‘Wine gin’ isn’t an official category yet, but it is a helpful way to describe a growing group of juniper-led spirits that are inspired by fine wines.

Some, as in the case of Seppeltsfield Road Distillers’ Barossa Shiraz Gin or Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz Gin, which is made in the Yarra Valley outside of Melbourne, are both inspired by red wine and use actual wine grapes as ingredients in the gin.

Others, like Salcombe Gin Rosé Sainte Marie, take a style of wine as a starting point — in Salcombe’s case, the fruity and dry palate of a Provencal rosé wine — and translate it into a gin by choosing botanicals that echo the flavours in fine wine.

I love a glass of dry Provencal rosé wine and the image of Mediterranean summers’ day that goes along with it. We wanted to create a gin expression softer than our London Dry, with the lovely hint of red fruit and freshness you would get in a glass of rosé wine.

— Angus Lugsdin, Co-founder of Salcombe Distilling Company

And then there are gins aged in barrels once used for wine, like One Gin Port Barrel Aged Gin, which is created by resting the gin in reclaimed barrels once used to store port after it has been distilled.


So why would a distiller make a wine gin?

Every distiller has their own ‘aha’ moment when it comes to the expressions they choose to create.

For Nicole and Jon, being steeped in the winemaking culture of the Barossa Valley — which is one of the world’s most renowned wine regions — put wine at the forefront of their minds.

Barossa is known for its Shiraz, particularly in the area where our distillery is. When we were living in the UK, we discovered sloe gin, and I wondered whether we could make a sloe-gin style spirit using Shiraz grapes. Two weeks later, Four Pillars launched their Bloody Shiraz Gin!

— Nicole Durdin, Co-founder of Seppeltsfield Road Distillers

Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz Gin was born when, as Co-founders Stuart Gregor and Cameron MacKenzie told Ginned! Magazine back in 2016, the team ‘discovered’ (read: stole) 250kg of Shiraz grapes from one of their friends, a winemaker in the Yarra Valley.

Cam thought it would be fun to steep them, uncrushed, in gin for a few weeks. The result was a sweet, juicy drink that sold out quickly.

— Stu, Co-founder of Four Pillars Distillery

The team at Salcombe Distilling Co., on the other hand, were inspired by the adventure and joy of life in the South of France, encapsulated by the elegant-yet-joyful pink wines made there. They were inspired to capture this joie de vivre in their speciality spirit, gin, while also exploring how to create a pink gin without adding artificial colours, flavours or sugar.

The luscious vineyards of Barossa Valley
The luscious vineyards of Barossa Valley

Seppeltsfield Road Distillers’ still
Seppeltsfield Road Distillers’ still

How are wine gins made?

Every distiller will have his or her own method of making a wine gin, depending on their equipment, skill level, the botanicals available to them and their vision of what the final product will be.

For barrel-aged gins like One Gin Port Barrel Aged Gin, it’s as simple as leaving the gin to age in a barrel until it has taken on the flavours of the fortified wine that the barrel used to hold. For others, the process is a little more complex.

The team at Four Pillars make their Bloody Shiraz Gin by soaking Shiraz grapes in their Rare Dry Gin; at Seppeltsfield Road Distillery, Nicole and Jon use their House Gin, distilled with local botanicals, as a starting point and use the same process, topping up the final product with water or spirit used as an alcohol base to adjust the ABV as needed.

At first, we expected that the alcohol would break down the grape skins and we would end up with mush, but that wasn’t the case at all. The berries remained whole, but the alcohol drew out this amazing colour and flavour.

— Nicole Durdin

Not only are the gin botanicals and the grapes local, but even the process captures a piece of Barossa Valley’s heritage.

For me, it’s a modern reincarnation of Barossa’s tradition of fortified winemaking, while also being a reimagination of the sloe gin concept. It’s great because this gin has a real sense of time and place.

— Jon Durdin, Co-founder of Seppeltsfield Road Distillers

Over at Salcombe Distilling Co. on the south coast of England, meanwhile, the wine gin on their roster is made using more traditional distilling techniques. Aiming to capture the dry fruitiness of rosé wines, the team distils carefully selected botanicals, among them strawberries, lemon verbena, orange blossom, rose petals and pink peppercorn They then macerate fresh strawberries in the London Dry Gin, achieving the pale pink colour.


Rosé G&T
Rosé G&T

How should I drink a wine gin?

The answer to this question depends entirely on the style of the gin, although a wine gin and tonic will always be a safe bet.

Richly flavoured gins like Seppeltsfield Road Distillers’ Barossa Shiraz Gin, Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz Gin and One Gin Port Barrel Aged Gin, which have used maceration or soaking as a technique, often mimic the palate of a sloe gin. This means that serves that work with the latter will likely work with the former. Try them with ginger ale or ginger beer as a mixer, or in cocktails developed for sloe gin — Jon and Nicole are big fans of the Deep Negroni.

This cocktail is deep with rich flavours, yet it holds a bittersweet finish. It’s smooth but warms the soul. Enjoy near the closest fire you can find and forget about everything else!

— Jon Durdin

Deep Negroni

Deep Negroni wine gin cocktail

Ingredients

30ml Seppeltsfield Road Distillers’ Barossa Shiraz Gin
30ml Campari
30ml dry vermouth
Orange rind, to garnish

Method

Fill a mixing glass and a tumbler with ice. Add your ingredients to the mixing glass and stir gently for 30 seconds, until the spirits have integrated and chilled down. Strain the cocktail into your tumbler, twist the rind over the cocktail and drop it in the drink to serve.

Salcombe Gin’s Rosé Sainte Marie, on the other hand, is much more along the lines of a pink gin or more classic expression. Serve it as a G&T, as you would a pink gin, or a spritz, as you would a rosé wine, to get the best out of this wine-inspired spirit; Angus also loves it in a French 75, with lemon juice and pink Champagne or other sparkling wine. However you drink it, Angus recommends serving his delicate and nuanced rosé gin in a wine glass, to echo the libation that inspired it.

Southern Sky

This unique and utterly impressive cocktail from the Salcombe Distilling Co. marries their Salcombe Gin Rosé Sainte Marie with thyme-infused Chambord and champagne. We can not get enough!

Southern Sky gin cocktail

Ingredients

25ml Salcombe Gin Rosé Sainte Marie
15ml Knightor Winery Rosé Vermouth
15ml thyme-infused Chambord
Champagne, to top

Method

For the thyme-infused Chambord: Leave a handful of thyme sprigs in half a bottle of Chambord overnight and then sift before use.

In a shaker or mixing jug, stir the Chambord, gin and vermouth with lots of ice. Strain the liquid into your champagne glass and top with champagne. Enjoy!


You can find many of these fabulous wine gins on our online shop, give them a try!

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