Kent-based winery Chapel Down has launched its own line of gin and vodka made from grapes, as part of a growing trend across the English wine industry…

Chapel Down spirits range

Both of the spirits are made from leftover grape skins from the winemaking process, and are each a nod to the relative grape variety.

The vodka is made from Chardonnay grapes, and the gin from Bacchus – deliberately distilled with botanicals that reflect the citrus and floral flavours found in Bacchus wine.

‘It was born out of an experiment really,’ said Chapel winemaker Josh Donaghay-Spire, at the launch in London on 30 November.

He started by making some Grappa from grape skins in 2016, and has been developing the spirits ever since.

‘It’s been two years in the making, but you’ve got to get the liquid right.’

Both spirits will be available to buy from Majestic from 11 December.

‘We really wanted the flavours to nod to the wine – otherwise what’s the point?’

It’s not the first time Chapel Down has branched out from wine; it also makes the Curious beer and cider range.

Last year it made a 23 year old English grape brandy, although this isn’t going to carry on.

‘The demand for our wine is so high, there’s no excess to use for brandy production – and then there’s the time and resource needed for ageing it,’ said Donaghay-Spire.

Growing trend

There is now an emerging trend for English wine producers to move into spirits.

Bolney Wine Estate in Sussex has joined with company Foxhole Spirits to produce a gin from the waste-products of the winemaking.

Gin in particular has grown significantly in the UK in recent years.

2016 was dubbed ‘the year of gin’, as sales went over £1 billion in the on and off trades for the first time, according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA).

Sales went up 19% year on year in the on trade, and 13% in the off trade in 2016 versus 2015.

Haittingley Valley in Hampshire also produces a spirit called ‘Aqua Vitae’, and grapes from Gusbourne Estate, in Kent, are used in Vermouth made by Asterley Bros.

A key advantage of producing spirits is that the product is ready for market much quicker, as well as being made from a waste product of winemaking.

There is also no risk of a bad vintage, added Chapel Down’s managing director, Mark Harvey, so branching out from wine can help the business model.

‘There is a wider trend of blurring of lines in categories,’ said managing director Mark Harvey.

‘Rules are made to be broken, and we’re one company deliberately playing with it.’

Buy the gin here

Buy the vodka here 

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