Grape-based gin may sound like a new hybrid, but the concept dates to the 1400s. That’s when evidence from the Netherlands shows that juniper spirits, i.e., the ancestors of today’s gin, were often made with grapes. A dip in European viticulture caused by the “Little Ice Age,” a global cooling period that began around that same time and lasted through the mid-19th century, caused the transition to the grain-based versions seen popularly today.
A parade of bottlings have revived the grape-based tradition. Made from winemaking discards or even wine itself, they’re characterized largely by an intriguing aroma, fruity taste and fuller mouthfeel than their grain-based counterparts. Ahead, three with which to get acquainted.
This small-batch gin is made from a base of California Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. “Ebra” is a clever play on ginebra, the Spanish word for gin, as the bottling’s flavor was inspired by Spaniards’ love of Gin-Tonic, served typically in a balloon glass or goblet and garnished with fresh herbs and botanicals. It highlights Mediterranean aromatics that range from rosemary blossoms and Valencia orange peel to lavender.
G’Vine Floraison Gin
Launched in 2006, G’Vine was one of the first grape-based gins to enter the modern market. From France’s Cognac region, it’s made from ephemeral grapevine blossoms picked approximately 100 days prior to the area’s winegrape harvest. The flowers are macerated in grape brandy, distilled and combined with botanicals and spices, then distilled a second time to result in a smooth-tasting floral spirit that also flaunts hints of lime and juniper on the nose.
O.R.E. 118 Raw Vegan Gin
Apt for all appetites, this is the first American version to be certified as both vegan, created without the use of animals and/or animal byproducts, and raw, made entirely below 118˚F, the degree at which food and beverage are formally considered cooked. Its base is an 82-proof eau de vie of Washington State Chardonnay grapes that was distilled slowly three times by a vacuum method. In tandem with selected organic botanicals, this process gives the gin an unexpected, earthy, ginger aroma.