WanderCurtis Wine

Wine tastings, corporate events, reviews and recommendations

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Sensational Stellenbosch. May 2017 – day 1

Our first tasting in Stellenbosch was at the magnificent  Tokara Estate  owned by GT Ferreira , situated  at the crest of the Helshoogte Pass. The exceptional location allows panoramic views over Olive Groves, valleys and Mountains from Simonsberg to Table Mountain. The  tasting room has a huge stone fireplace and contemporary architecture, there’s also a sculpture garden delicatessen and restaurant.





We were greeted by Karl the GM and Suzanne .This stunning property has 60 hectares of vineyards and was built in 1999 with first vintage in 2001. Grapes are sourced from a variety of sites including the lovely Elgin Sauvignon blanc on a site which was a fruit farm. 2007 to 2016 ten year tasting shows exceptional development of these wines Back vintages are stored in a monumental four storey cylindrical cellar hidden behind a vast cast iron door off the tasting room .

Luckily I was inquisitive enough to encourage Carl to not only give us a peek inside but also to sneak out the delightful 2006 Directors reserve Semillon.

Tokara is named after the owners 2 children Distribution is mainly in Holland U.K. Germany. ABS wines distribute in the U.K The German market is very big partly due to historical factors , the Germans colonized SW Africa.25% of  Somerset West has German owned homes


Wines tasted.

Tokara Reserve Collection Elgin 2016 Sauvignon Blanc

Elderflower floral citrus peach , crisp good length persistence balance


Tokara Reserve Collection Chardonnay 2015

Naturally fermented .15% Pineapple tropical fruit .Butter vanilla toast oak 95 points best in SA 27 % new oak .

Tokara Directors Reserve 2014

70 Sauvignon Blanc 30 Sémillon High altitude 500 m Rich barrel fermented textured .wet hay lemons musty earthy

Tokara 2006 Directors Reserve Semillon

Carl plucked from secret cellar Rich pétrolic flinty gunsmoke texture full lovely pickled lemon

Tokara Reserve  Syrah 2013

Crushed spice Violets soft tannins savoury

2013 directors reserve red

Merlot Petit Verdot others Cedar cigar box tobacco . Long lovely soft tannins Long finish

Tokara Directors reserve Potstill Brandy Another special treat from Karl

floral dry fig and raisins





Delaire Graff Estate


The high altitude vineyard on the slopes of Botmaskop was originally a lookout for boats entering Table Bay Harbour .

No expense was spared on their multifaceted property, with   a winery, two restaurants, a lifestyle boutique,a diamond store, a five star lodge and spa transformed by Laurence Graff founder and chairman of Graff Diamonds International Ltd.

The cellar is one of the most advanced and well equipped in the Southern Hemisphere the first wines made in 2008.

Wines Tasted on the terrace


Cabernet franc rose 2016

strawberry crisp fresh finish

Delaire Graff Sauvignon Blanc 2015

beautifully fresh hint gooseberry and lemon

Delaire Graff  Sauvignon Blanc coastal cuvée Olifants river 2015

3 km from sea has 4% sémillon Franschoek Textured structured great mouthfeel length gooseberry tropical fruit

Delaire Graff Banghoek reserve Chardonnay 2015

vanilla peaches toast long 10 months French oak barriques seductive nose long lingering finish

Delaire Graff Swartland Chenin Blanc 2015

Honey citrus

Delaire Graff Botmaskop 2015

Alcohol stands out Tomato leaf nose cassis soft tannins Needs another year or more




Kleine Zalze Estate


Winemaking dates back to 1695 . Now run by ex lawyer Kobus Basson with extensive renovation and modernization.The property includes an 18 hole golf course a luxury residential developments a boutique hotel and a top Provençal inspired restaurant

Terroir Dinner with Anthony van schalkwyk atTerroir restaurant

Four clearly defined ranges exist . the foot of Africa range , The cellar selection range , the vineyard range and their flagship family reserve range.

Wines tasted with dinner

Vintage 2009 Blanc De Blanc Methode cap classique.

Family Reserve Chenin Blanc 2015

Family Reserve, Cabernet 2012

Family Reserve Shiraz 2012

For full tasting notes see details from our wine dinner in London with Kleine Zalze .

I highly recommend this as a destination to base yourselves in Stellenbosch, complete with infinity pool , majestic views , mountain bike trail , excellent restaurant and easy access to wineries .

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Chateau Haut Condissas – punching well above its weight!

It’s really not that hard to find great wines: go for a prestigious region, select one of the big names, just check that it has a good score from an international critic or two and bingo! As long as of course you don’t mind paying through the nose……  And in Bordeaux the wines have steadily been extracting larger and larger amounts through said nasal passage to the point at which they are now truly eye watering.

Which is why I have been a fan of ChateIMG_9919au Rollan de By for many years, it is a reliably delicious Cru Bourgeois from the Medoc, worthy of aging for a few years and sold at a very fair price.  So I was intrigued to hear that proprietor Jean Guyon (who also owns Chateau Greysac & a few others) also makes a more ambitious wine at Chateau Haut Condissas with the aim of rivalling the classified growths.

Arriving at a recent vertical tasting of the wines the very air in the room was scented with plums, cigar box and coco powder, a very promising start and the wines did not disappoint.

IMG_9922Wine maker Olivier Dauga (who used to work at Sociando de Mallet another of my favourite Medoc producers) explained that his goal is to achieve fine tannins by avoiding too much extraction, the fruit should be in the fore with the wood in a supporting role & not the other way around. His philosophy is that good grapes make good wine very good grapes make very good wines. The vineyards of Haut Condissas are to the very north of the Medoc near the Atlantic on the plateau de By close to the river bar.

These are rich merlot driven wines but have an unusually high proportion of around 20 % Petit Verdot.  This gives the wines colour & spice and extra freshness but they have to be careful as PV can give green tannins. Made without aeration or filtration in a very pure way with 100% new oak of which 10% American. The chateaux believe that affordability is important for high quality wines in the Medoc.

Haut Condissas 1999. Nice cigar box nose with red fruit berries. In the mouth medium body, fresh, light red fruit, more cedar, soft slightly powdery tannins & medium length. At its peak I would have thought but still full of life. Lifted & Refined. Very good. Returning later vegetal notes had developed.

Haut Condissas 2009. A hot year. Ripe plums, red fruit, faint cloves and smoke on the nose. Full body, medium + acid, more plums, cooked red fruit, some more cloves, coco powder, toasty, ripe soft tannin, and a long finish. 14% alcohol so a big wine but finely balanced. Excellent.

Haut Condissas 2010. Beautiful scented nose of red fruit, cedar and smoke, clove. On the palate: lovely & cool balanced, medium body, good fruit, lifted, tasty lashings of toast and spice. Very long. Excellent.  Returning later ground coffee & forest fruit compote.

Haut Condissas 2013. A Kosher wine – This is made in a different way observing the Sabbath & according to Judaism’s dietary laws.

There was a lot of rain in 2013 the wine is light in colour and intensity. More fruit driven nose with black plum & coco. Lighter body fruit, some toast and vanilla, slightly more angular tannin. Very drinkable. Very good.

Haut Condissas 2014. On the nose red fruit, some black berries, spice, smoke. In the mouth great balance, lifted and fresh, full fruit, nice spice, ripe tannin. Long a Lovely wine. Excellent.

Haut Condissas 2005.60% Merlot, 20% Petit Verdot,10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc. On the nose rich ripe fruit, smoky, coco & vanilla, forest floor an intense & complex nose. On the palate: lovely texture, medium plus body, more opulent than others, developed with mature flavours, leather, loam etc. with a lovely fruit core, holt chocolate. Very complex & vibrant. Great length and good freshness.  Gorgeous! An outstanding wine.

The chateau bottled a small quantity of single varietal wines from each of the grape varieties in the 2005 blend and in a brilliant twist to the normal wine tasting invited us to produce our own blend.IMG_9921

2005 100% Merlot. Dusty coco and plum nose, not particularly intense. Gorgeous fruit pie and chocolate shake, full body, powdery coating tannins. Medium acid.

2005 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Clove, indistinct fruit on nose. Cool, refined great structure, high acid, full body, long.

2005 100% Cabernet Franc. More delicate fruit raspberries etc. Bit of smoke. Beautiful fruit, fresh, refined, long & lifted wow! Light tannin and light structure.

2005 100% Petit Verdot. Spicy slightly funky with dark and stewed intense fruit, clove & lots of tannin.

My blend: 25% Merlot 25% CS, 40% CF, 10% PV. Slightly less open than actual blend, showing the austerity of CS and lighter fruit & high notes of CF.

It was fascinating to taste each varietal in its mature state and experiment with how each component adds to the blend.  Interestingly the only wine which really stood on its own two was the Cabernet Franc & the 2005 blend was far and away greater than the sum of its parts.

The 2005 and 2010 are still available at around £30- £35 per bottle by the case which for back vintages of an outstanding wine is great value!

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Champage Gosset dinner. It’s not about the bubbles, but they help!

Ahead of our Champagne Gosset wine dinner in the club room at Fredericks Odilon de Varine chief wine maker & deputy MD talked to Kiran about his wine making approach.

There followed another memorable wine diner with each course of the menu designed to complement the wines.

Adam Wander menu.crtr

Highlights included the way the toasty & nutty notes of the Grande Reserve were complimented by the pan fried herb gnocchi with Pecorino sauce and the way the Bream, mushrooms and cream worked with the superbly refined and complex & yet fresh Celebris 2004. Matches made in Heaven!


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Wine Australia Tour November 2016 – Barossa Valley (II)

Barossa is home to some of the oldest Shiraz vines in the world dating back to the 1840’s.They are typically full bodied with ripe plush tannins.The very best examples moderate this natural richness with balanced acidity and focused pure fruit character .Shiraz is the Variety of the region and occupies 50% of plantings , but there are significant Cabernet Sauvignon plantings especially in the cooler sites.Grenache is also popular either as a single varietal or blended with Shiraz and Mourvedre.

Barossa Old Vine Vineyard Visits and Tastings hosted by the Barossa Grape & Wine Association

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Langmeil winery  has the worlds oldest surviving Shiraz vineyard from 1842.Langmeil started by Christian Auricht fleeing Persecution in Prussia.

2014 Jackamans Cabernet Sauvignon 1960 planting 2 tonnes per acre low yield,Mint cassis spice length smooth lovely tannins

2014 Orphan Bank Shiraz  beautiful transplanted vines, saved from developers bulldozer,  dates  from 1858  perfumed nose,chocolate spice concentrated  finish of candied sweets

The Freedom Shiraz 2014 from 1843 vines !Smoky toasty blueberry complex herbs sage leaves dried  delicious long +++ complex savoury and herbacous  wow !! Trophy wine

The Freedom Shiraz 1998 Some tertiary leather spice herbs lighter colour

Kalleske old vine Grenache 2015 wild yeast open fermenters old oak rose floral raspberry sweets on finish soft chalky tannins beautiful finish and balance

Kalleske old vine Shiraz 2009 single vineyard from 1875 low yield unirrigated organic biodynamics open fermentation wild yeast 2 yrs barrel.Dark fruit savoury meat charm elegant length +++ amazing wines all.


Elderton vineyard  with Cameron and Allister Ashmead


Elderton 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon Ashmead 1870 cab vines.Plum spice cedar cigar box tobacco mint soft chalky tannins

Elderton 2014 cab sav  Ashmead

Liquorice herbaceous cassis hint green bell pepper soft chalky tannins length ++++ goes on and on sustaining very well made

Elderton Command 2002 single vine 1894

Mocha leather tobacco herbaceous 100 new oak French turmeric nutmeg spice floral on finish fine silky tannins

Elderton 2012 Command cassis liquorice long spicy finish pepper chocolate


Torbreck with Scott Mcdonald Winemakerimg_0630

Torbreck Runrig 2006  Shiraz viognier not coferment 2.5 yrs French oak  50% new herbaceous medicinal creosote cough syrup spice soft mouth coating ripe tannins sustained long spicy finish

Torbreck Runrig 2013 as above current release chocolate coffee black fruit liquorice complex full bodied incredible concentrated depth

Schwarz wine company

Old bastard Kaesler Shiraz 2013

Mineral plaster limestone blackberry sl lactic blueberry soft velvety ripe tannins long and complex

Old bastard 2010 1893 almost black initially closed opened up with black fruits and pepper good backbone soft chalky tannins admirable structure and balance hint of cocoa on finish.Old vine as no phylloxera.Long roots low yield

The Schiller 2014 Shiraz sl composty nose earth animal meaty savoury low tannins soft

Toby St Hallett old block 2013 made since 198o oldest 1870 up to 1906 vines.Floral sweet cherry bright red fruit seamless soft velvety tannin


Cirillo  Marco 2011 ancestor old vine Grenache   Med body red floral lifted fruits perfumed elegant nose wild strawberry raspberry rose soft silky tannins beautifully integrated long long finish balance superb oldest producing Grenache vineyards in world

1848 Cirillo old vine sémillon Sandy citrus crisp hay wet crisp acid

1853 Hewitson  Barossa Mourvèdre 2013 Med ruby,star anise spice soft silky tannins lovely balance length spice nutmeg turmeric herbal  rosemary



Jane Ferrari met us at the Cirillo vineyards and gave us a history lesson of Barossa. img_0690

Jane has great enthusiasm for the region  and explain how lots of  old plantings were initially for fortified wine to supply the  British empire.

Yalumba nursery –  We took part in Omega Grafting joining rootstock to desired cuttings.

Tasted 3 clones Shiraz made same way exactly Bvovs10 115 yr old,Bvov 60 yr old, Bvov age unknown

and discussed therole of epigenetics passing on features, changing RNA/DNA by external factors.



Heggies lunch by the lake with Peter Gambetta and winemakers-Chardonnay  and Riesling Masterclass.

Another gourmet lunch in the most serene setting. The wine selection of the highest precision and quality




img_0749Heggies Chardonnayimg_0745

2013, 2010, 2006, Reserve 2006

Pewsey vale Riesling

2016 and Contours 2011




Yalumba  Cooperage tour and Cabernet-Shiraz blends tasting.

A discussion on why blend ? Cab sav needs support /Lots Shiraz available gives mid palate richness/Mid palate depth when young.

Yalumba the scribbler 2013 Goat cheese animal soft chalky tannins simple not much length intensity

Yalumba the signature 2013 premium blend   Cassis cedar blueberry chalky tannin young

Yalumba the signature 2006 Concentrated dried fruit nose cassis prune violet floral pepper smooth long depth soft sl chalky tannins long raisin finish sprinkling cocoa powder +

Yalumba FDR1A 2012 Gamey nose blueberry tannins chalky Med plus intensity young needs time

Yalumba FDR1A 2008 Cassis chocolate violet liquorice herbal soft tannins length cedar leather,Change from densely extracted powerful dark wines to lighter style fragrant purity

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This had been a full day so far but was still in it’s infancy as we then headed North to Clare Valley and a memorable dinner with Peter Barry and family ….

Reflections on the day

Old vine wines really are worth all the hype .

Tasting wines in the vineyard adds to the experience and is a great idea.

I was surprised to see eminent wine tasters order and served coffee during a tasting.

Quality of wine is important but quality of company is more , Peter Barry is a hoot, have a box of funny hats available at dinner parties, full details to follow in the  Clare valley review…..


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Wine Australia Tour November 2016 Mclaren Vale (II)

Mclaren Vale Shiraz exhibits a range of sub-regional styles . They are typically medium to full bodied with vibrant pure fruit,blueberry, chococlate and spice . Sustainability is an increasingly important issue here especially regarding water availability . A trip to Battle of Bosworth demonstrated a trend to organic wine production.

The day started early in the Serafino Cellar room with a ‘speed dating’ Shiraz session.

Tintara with Paul Carpenter

img_0310These wines had a lovely tannin structure aided by open fermentation, basket press, hand plunging.

Tintara- Upper Tintara  Shiraz 2013

Only 500 cases made delicious sweet berry nose , 25% new oak, good  acid tannin  balance chocolate coffee blackberry

Eileen hardy 2013

112 yrs old vineyard  dead arm is a  problem  approx. $110 dollars/bottle  dark Berry complex +++





Serafino with Russell Gallagher and Charles Whish

Serafino Sorrento  3 km from coast

Their entry level shiraz, fruit forward savoury herb sage spice

Serafino Black Label

Spice nutmeg  soft fruit cinnamon , spice,  chocolate baking spice , clove length complexity +

Coriole with Alex Sherrah

img_0318Coriole Shiraz 2014  app $30 dollars soils are  600 million year limestone with just one foot of topsoil

Black berry fruit spice liquorice pepper

Lloyd Shiraz 2013

100 year old   vines planted in 1919, hand picked

Deep ++ dark spice open fermentation more oxidative piégeage  pump over.

Very complex- dark chocolate, coffee, pepper, soft lush ripe tannins , long finish,  baking spices blue berry , barrel 2 yrs French oak non irrigation, yield 2 tonnes per acre ,a few bottles per vine if you’re lucky. +

D’Arenberg with Jack Walton

The laughing magpie 2012 Shiraz viognierimg_0320

Foot treading co fermentation basket pressed app $30

Concentrated fruit, 450 acres biodynamic vineyards, coffee, chocolate, spice, blue fruits grippy tannins, fruit abundant

The Dead Arm 2013  app $60

Great balance persistence tannins,15- 20 mins foot treading at 4 Baume ,basket pressed

Brad Rey , Zontes Footstep

img_0323Chocolate factory chocolate core coffe mocha decadent

blackberry and blueberry pie star anise nutmeg.

As part of their sponsorship of Legacy club South Australia

Zonte’s Footstep donates a proportion of each bottle of Z-Force ,

in tribute to the bravery of members of the Z Special Unit



Sam Temme -Wirra Wirra

Cool climate area, boundaries Adelaide Hillsimg_0324

Catapult Shiraz 200 m above sl, fragrant  viognier french oak juicy berry perfumed aromatic style blueberries

Whaite Old Block scarce  earth programme,1975 Blewitt Springs

floral perfume tannin structure

RSW 2014  Flagship  wine named after the  original owner, grown on  sandy soils with bit of black clay

Elegance balance floral hand picked open ferment ,4 day cold soak , basket press French oak30% new,8 /9 days ferment

Blood iron power elegance  still a baby 2014.

Battle of Bosworth with Joch Bosworth

img_0327Puritan Shiraz 2016 no added sulfur,organic

Raspberries violets pretty floral purple sl reductive joven style it is filtered not natural

Battle of Bosworth Shiraz 2014

Floral elegant closed some smoke coffee

Learning points -less oak less time less new, fine grain.

Site specification leading to more elegance and  structure

Soursop weeds encouraged help  strip surface moisture.


A truly indulgent lunch with Steve Maglieri and winemakers  at Serafino’s fine winery restaurant.


Visit to  Battle of Bosworth, Sustainability session.

img_0350Location bordering Adelaide Hills , single vineyard wines

Settled 1836 first grapes 1838 lots organic viticulture the climate is ideal

Underground water  used for drip irrigation.

Sustainable , optimum watering needs worked out by hydrologist.

Also reclaimed water from Southern suburbs Adelaide  50% water for vineyard

600 mm / year rainfall

Soursop bulbs encouraged (South African weed helps aerate soils)We together with fungal hyphae


We had a live demonstration of Joch’s drone used to scare off birds and reduce reliance on netting.

Tasting of  Chardonnay , Rose Shiraz, Cab Sauvignon and some interesting varietals –

Touriga Nacional floral ++vibrant red berries   8 yrs on 30 yr old rootsimg_0367

Lovely, Med bodied Med tannins ripe soft mod acidity +++

Graciano salty savoury herbal  cherry medicinal

White boar Amarone style  dried on vine cane cut Shiraz Cabernet amarone style 2012 rich lush.

It was a very informative and informal afternoon with the lovely Louise and Joch

which was rounded off perfectly with Louise’s delicious homemade scones!



Dinner Horta on the beach at  Port Noarlunga

Just in case we hadn’t had enough calories today,we  made a trip to Hortas overlooking the Ocean with Seafood, gambas calamari  and spiced Portuguese fish.

Some of the many wine highlights included the  Clonakilla Riesling and the 2007 Tasmanian méthode traditionnelle,7 yrs on lees, and a wide range of the SC Pannell wines.

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Wine Australia Tour November 2016 – Mclaren Vale (I)


McLaren vale’s proximity to the ocean creates substantial meso-climate variation. The wide range of soils from terra rossa to sandy soils around Blewitt springs enable a range of wine styles. Shiraz is king with over 50% of total crush, whilst Cabernet Sauvignon shines in the cooler sites. Many old Grenache vines survive from the late 1800s and more recently there is tremendous experimentation with Mediterranean varieties.

First stop and our base for 2 nights was Serafino  on Kangarilla Road. This beautiful property has majestic gardens, a lake, 200 year old gum trees, swimming pool, luxurious accommodation and an excellent restaurant. Maria Maglieri kindly whizzed me over in her sporty Audi  to our first tasting.img_0256


img_0258Mark Lloyd   planted  Australia’s first sangiovese in 1985, which now comprises 10 per cent of Coriole’s estate output, beside other significant plantings of Barbera, Nebbiolo. There is a new wave of diversification of Australian wine noticeable in this region with a wide range of Mediterranean varietals being experimented.

We were treated to a selection of these wines over the most delicious lunch amidst Coriole’s lovely gardens.



Serafino Fiano 2016 lemon,pear nice texture touch of  tannin, acid crisp. (This varietal  is the one they’re  tipping, it  retains acid in a hot climate, small berries, good texture , good with Asian food and easy to pronounce!)

Angoves Fiano 2016 – Tinned fruit, lovely  texture.

Coriole Picpoule  Very crisp acid , mouth puckering , Languedoc’s white grape with distinctive character.

Olivers Taranga Vermentino  oranges ,mandarin saline (lees stirring)

Coriole Chenin Blanc 2003 +Beeswax, paraffin honey lush mouthfeel length delicious lucky Mark brought this one out .

After a  brief refreshment back at Serafino we headed to  the Angove family winery for the evening .

img_0277-1Grenache tasting at Angove

‘Grenache is our Pinot’ stated Steve from S.C.Pannel . Steve was clear about his philosophy of expressing the purity of the terroir and grape without any need for the interference of oak or fuller bodied styles. The wines tasted were light to medium bodied, lively juicy wild strawberry and rasberry scented fruit ,perfumed with a touch of spice. These wines really displayed their beauty and are very much the jewel in Mclaren Vale’s crown.



Ministry of Clouds 2015 Grenache red cherries fresh light

Noon eclipse 2015 sl cloudy perfumed rose, hint spice liquorice nutmeg turmeric changed over the hour

Angove 2014 Warboys + +beautiful,complex earth spice perfume savoury smoky

Samuels  Gorge 2014 red fruits strawberry wild lovely length freshness perfume +img_0289

SC pannel Grenache fruits but also smoky meaty savoury rust blood

Yangarra Estate sandy soil bush vines ceramic eggs keeps it cool small cap min oxidation  good tannin acid savouriness structure

Dinner followed, opposite the lovely  Jennifer of  the McLaren vale wine organisation.Another gourmet treat,with trays of sliced shoulder of lamb,pearl barley and selection of Grenache followed by local McLaren vale cheeses .

Reflections of the  day.

The Aussies are refreshingly  direct, friendly, welcoming, passionate and  innovative. They appreciate comments and being open and verbal at tastings.

Watch this space for different varietals in future especially  Fiano and Mencia .

Lighter more restrained terroir driven elegant wines  .. it’s a  young country so still finding their best sites and their feet.

My favourite wines of the tour notified by  +/++/+++

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The Renaissance Of Gin

From the artistically-inspired names of the Vincent Van Gogh and Rembrandt Korewijn brands, to the more sinister-sounding Fremont Mischief, Deception, Sly Fox and Death’s Door, there is a gin to suit every taste and  it seems that new gins are popping-up on a near daily basis.

Micro-distilleries are opening and flourishing right across Britain, whilst established makers are reinventing themselves with ‘ultra-premium’ blends. Business is also booming in specialist gin bars, you can create your own special mix at the Ginstitute in Notting Hill, whilst the more adventurous consumer can even inhale a gin cocktail at Alcoholic Architecture in Borough Market.

This account will firstly look at the history and production of gin, and then endeavour to explain why gin is experiencing such a dramatic and sustained resurgence in popularity. It will also seek to examine its likely future.


The earliest known written reference to genever (Dutch for juniper, from which the name gin derives,) appears in the 13th century  work Der Naturen Bloeme.In early 17th Century Holland, genever was made as a medicine to treat stomach complaints, gout and gallstones. It is claimed that it was given to British troops fighting in the Netherlands for its calming effect in battle – thus coining the term ‘Dutch Courage’.

By the mid-17th Century, the re-distillation of malt spirit with juniper, anise, coriander and other ingredients had become popular with numerous Dutch and Flemish distillers. Distillation started taking place in a small way in England in the same period – but the quality was more dubious. Gin became vastly more popular when William of Orange, ruler of the Dutch Republic, ascended the British throne in 1689. As King William III, he made a series of statutes including, “An Act for the Encouraging of the Distillation of Brandy and spirits from Corn”, which was promoted by land owners anxious to keep up the value of grain, thus increasing their revenues. The duty on malted corn distillates was lowered, whilst the tax on beers and spirits made from other sources was raised; there was a more severe duty on spirits imported from France. As a result, anyone could distil, simply by paying a small fee, posting a public notice and waiting ten days: the production of gin rose dramatically.

The London Gin Craze

By 1730, London had over 7,000 shops that sold exclusively spirits, and gin was being sold in all manner of establishments. It was produced by large distilleries as well as by small independent companies – and also in the criminal shadows, where ingredients of a lesser quality were used to imitate juniper’s essence (these included oil of turpentine, pepper, ginger – and even sulfuric acid). The abuse of alcohol by the poor became a major social problem, affecting both men and women. Gin became known as ‘mother’s ruin’ (famously epitomised in Hogarth’s etchings of the time).In an attempt to regulate production, the Gin Acts were passed: duty was more than doubled and a license fee introduced, but this led directly to a surge in illegal bootlegging, the most notable being Old Tom gin, which was sold underhand on the streets by shops displaying the symbol of a black cat. A less penury act in 1751 deemed illegal production futile, and reduced consumption.


With the invention and refinement of the distillation column in the 1830s, a higher quality of spirit with a smoother taste and defined flavours from botanicals appeared. This London dry style differed to the earlier, sweeter, heavier styles. Glamorous gin palaces with new gaslights, extravagant facades and beautifully-etched glass windows opened all over London: gin had emerged from the shadows.

The popularity of gin spread further, throughout the British Empire. Quinine – an antimalarial which on its own tasted too bitter – was used as an ingredient to make tonic water. It perfectly complemented gin, and became a distinctive British colonial drink. Pink gin with Angostura bitters, thought to cure seasickness also became popular. Pimm’s was created in 1823, and this led to the next phase of gin drinking: the cocktail.

In the United States, the art of mixing drinks was in full swing by the late 1800s. This golden age of cocktails was driven underground by prohibition in 1920. The quality of products was severely affected, leading to the production of ‘Bathtub gin’ (a home-made distillation by amateurs and by “speakeasies”, establishments which illegally sold alcohol). Many of America’s best mixologists of the time came to London, the most famous being Harry Craddock, who produced the Savoy cocktail book.

The 1920s marked gin’s heyday: it became the fuel of upmarket parties, and the essential ingredient in the classic Martini loved by many, including Churchill, Hemingway and Sinatra.

In the 1960s, young people turned to the cool new spirit vodka, which was cleverly marketed and became the bartender’s first choice for mixing cocktails.  Distillers who had been established since the Victorian era sold up, closed down or moved out of London, marking a drop in gin’s fortunes…until its recent revival.


There are many variables in the production process of gin which affect its final style. Important influences include the choice of distillation method, the number of distillation rounds, the base spirit used, the flavours and botanicals and the storage system used. The predominant flavour must be juniper and the minimal alcohol strength 37.5% ABV under EU law.The three main production methods are pot-distilled, column-distilled and cold compound gin.

Pot-distilled gin

The most traditional method uses a copper pot to distil fermented mash from grains, usually barley, wheat rye or maize. Copper reacts with sulphur in the distillate, forming copper sulphate and thereby removing unwanted sulphur. Foreshots, heads, hearts and tails are produced during distillation. The heart is the core desired distillate. Some distillers buy the base spirit from a third party. A second round of fermentation with juniper berries and other botanicals added to the distillate then takes place. An advantage of pot distillation is in the complexity of distillate produced, in turn creating a weightier spirit; however pot distillation has to be done one batch at a time, as the still needs to be emptied and cleaned between distillations. Furthermore, pot stills can only distil to a certain level of purity usually between 60% and 80% ABV; examples are Hayman’s London Dry and Berry Bros. and Rudd’s No.3.

Column-distilled gin

This is also referred to as a continuous still. It evolved following the invention of the Coffey still in the 1830s, and this method is more efficient: distillation is continuous and a gin lighter in flavour, higher in proof and with less impurities is produced.

Simply put, the effect is one of putting lots of pot stills on top of one another with perforations in between. The mash enters near the top and the still is heated from the bottom. Water and grain solids fall to the bottom of the still and alcohol and other volatile molecules rise up the chambers from plate to plate and condense. A second column known as the rectifier allows it to condense at the desired strength. This method results in a purer form of distillate, of up to 95% ABV. This is the most common form of production of gin, and includes most London Dry gins.Other adaptations exist, such as the Carter Head Still used by Bombay Sapphire .The botanicals are suspended in a basket above the alcoholic vapour picking up the flavours in a more subtle way.The hybrid still at Sipsmith’s called Prudence has a pot, Carter head and Coffey all in one. Hendrick’s combine two spirits made in separate stills.

Vacuum distillation is favoured by Ian Hart of Sacred gin and by Oxley. It is thought that the lower temperatures used avoid over-cooking the botanicals, in turn leading to fresher flavours.

Cold Compound gin

This is made by adding juniper, botanicals and flavourings to neutral spirits without re-distillation. It is generally considered a less desirable production method.

The range and combination of botanicals used makes each gin taste unique: these are often closely-guarded recipes! After juniper, coriander is usually the next strongest flavour. Anything goes, from gentian to lavender to grains of paradise. Monkey 47 from Germany uses 47 botanicals to create its unique flavour profile; fixatives such as Orris root or Angelica hold the flavours together.The differences in production described leads to the many styles of gin produced.

The forerunner, genever from Holland, is sweeter, more  malty and whisky-like and often aged in oak. Old Tom – rarely seen now – used liquorice, then cane sugar as a sweetener. London dry is the most recognised, subtle, lighter dry style: unlike other distilled gin, no colour or flavours are allowed to be added after distillation and it can’t have more than 0.1g/l of sugar. Plymouth gin must be made within the city walls of Plymouth, and is slightly less dry and earthy and often higher ABV.

The huge range of flavourings and botanicals used lead to the varied and eclectic products now available.


                                                                                                         Ian Hart with his vacuum distiller showing off Christmas Pudding gin

Reasons for the Gin Renaissance

The British gin industry alone has grown by 18% in the last two years, with premium offerings growing by nearly 50%. WSTA figures shows the industry has grown in value by 9.6% last year and 17.9% over the last two yearsThe UK is the biggest exporter of gin in the world. Exports reached a record £390million in 2014, selling to 139 countries,70% of its production. This is enough to make 1.6 billion gin and tonics!For decades gin was dismissed as a fuddy-duddy drink consumed by maiden aunts and grandparents. Gin’s old fashioned image and its association with the establishment alienated young people.Young drinkers tend to reject drinks enjoyed by their parents: just as baby-boomers of the swinging Sixties adopted vodka to distinguish themselves from their parents’ love of gin and whisky, Millennials are returning to gin

  1. Marketing and Branding

In 1987, the first successful gin launch in years arrived at the luxury end of the market. Americans Michel Roux, with a background in advertising at Absolut Vodka, and Allan Subin, an importer of luxury spirits, were looking to launch an authentically-English gin. They created a striking exotic blue bottle with a prominent image of Queen Victoria, resulting in an attractive balance between heritage and modernity. Bombay Sapphire with its lighter, less juniper- driven, more floral flavour offered a template for the stylish new gins which would follow.Hendrick’s gin was also a significant player in revitalizing the genre. Launched in Scotland by William Grant & Sons in 1999.It arrives in a dark, medicinal bottle reminiscent of the work of an apothecary. It has a unique flavour profile with cucumber and rose petal recommended served with a slice of cucumber rather than lemon. With patience and inventive marketing, it has pioneered the super-premium gin category. Hendricks’ year-on-year volumes are up 16%, with value up 24%

A vast array of boutique gin brands have followed in Hendricks’ wake, and the success of artisanal gins has prompted the traditional distillers to rethink and even rebrand. Tanqueray was the first big gin maker to take the risk, launching Tanqueray No. 10, which it advertised with the slogan, “ready to Tanqueray?” Beefeater also utilised clever marketing, exploiting both its heritage and traditional base in London

2. Consumer Awareness and Education

“A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

(Steve Jobs, Founder of Apple)

New Amsterdam gin sales volumes went from 100,000 cases in 2007 to over 800,000 in 2009. The company conducted in-store demos and tastings throughout the United States: it has been proved that tastings, whether through simple cocktails or with interactive mixology contests, are key to growth.

There are an increasing number of inviting ways for the consumer to learn about gin. A large selection of gins are readily and widely available to try –  The Feathers in Woodstock holds the Guinness world record with 174 bottles – and many distilleries offer tours and tastings, including Sipsmith, Beefeater and further afield Laverstoke Mill and Adnams. Masterclasses and tastings are held at venues such as the Ginstitute, Dukes Bar and Rules, and walking tours are run by Shake Rattle and Stir’s Gin Journey or The Gin Ramble run by WSET.The World Gin Day, now in its seventh year, is a celebration of all things gin, with public events and festivals all over the country.

3. The Second Golden Age of Cocktails

”Bartenders are pushing gin over the bar attracting new consumers to the spirit”

(Deidre Clarke, Hendrick’s)

London is currently home to a world-class cocktails scene, and is a magnet for the best barmen and ‘mixologists ‘ (including  Alessandro Palazzi at Dukes, Simone Caporale at Artesian and  Tony Conigliaro of 69 Colebrooke Row).

These experts have ensured that momentum has gathered pace for new gins, spearheaded by the flurry of interest in cocktails in the past fifteen or so years. The range of botanicals allow gin to create a successful cocktail because there are so many flavours to pick up in the accompanying ingredients, unlike vodka, which is difficult for the consumer to distinguish and identify in combination.

4. Advantages in Production Methods

Gin is made using botanicals. There are an infinite number of combinations of plant species (and foods) that can be distilled: from the elderflower of Warner Edwards to the berry notes in Caorrunn to the Lavender and basil in Berkeley Square.

Furthermore flavours are often sourced locally. This is appealing to the consumer, in a similar way to the recent growth in popularity of farmers’ markets, allotments and locally-produced organic ingredients. The botanical from Islay uses 22 locally foraged ingredients from wild gorse flower to creeping thistle; Four Pillars from Australia uses Tasmanian pepperberry; Dodd’s from Battersea uses honey from London Bees and Blackwoods uses sea pink flowers from the Shetlands.

The exotically-inclined can try Star of Bombay using grains of paradise or Sacred gin made with Frankincense from Oman; Tanqueray No. 10 has a fresher taste using oranges grapefruits and limes, whilst Beefeater 24 uses Chinese Green tea and Japanese Sencha tea.  This ability to experiment with a huge variety of ingredients gives gin a unique and glamorous selling point.Another factor is the alcoholic strength which can vary widely from 37.5% ABV such as Gordons London dry   to 57.5ABV in Plymouth navy strength, allowing consumers a wide choice to suit individual taste.Also important is there’s no requirement to age gin before release; unlike whisky, which must be aged for a minimum of 3 years, gin can be produced and sold relatively quickly, easily and inexpensively.

5. The Rise of the Craft Distiller

The United States led the way in the boom of craft microbreweries: there are now 2,400 in the America, up from barely 50 in 1980, each making a huge range of flavour-rich artisanal ales. This has paved the way for Craft distilling: there are 623 craft distilleries in the United States.A similar trend has taken place in the UK, with a staggering 65 new gin distilleries in the last year alone. Consumer interest in authentic, quality, small-batch artisanal products in all areas, including food and wine, help to drive this growth.

The likely future of gin over the next ten years

Gin still only represents a small section of the global spirits market – whisky and vodka remain a much bigger category

The Philippines is the world’s largest gin market, where 98% is produced domestically, followed by America, Spain, the UK and India. The main vendors are Ginebra San Miguel, Bacardi, Diageo, Pernod Ricard and William Grant & Sons.

The main success is in the categories premium trend: in America, super premium gin accounts for 27% of total gin sales.The global gin market is broadly flat, totalling 45.3million nine litre cases in 2013. If low-priced gin is excluded, the picture is healthier, with value figures up by almost 6% to US $5.85bn in 2013.

Recent IWSR research data gives us some predictions: the demographic of gin drinkers in the UK is getting younger, increasing in trendiness and boosted in its appeal with female consumers, and Europe could be the most exciting region for growth. Premiumisation is set to continue with growth at the craft end, but globally less than 5% are gin sales: global alcohol consumption Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) looks to fall to 0.9% until 2019, and CAGR volume of gin negative 0.10%  to 2019.

As part of my research, I visited Sipsmiths and the new Cotswold distillery, and met Ian Hart of Sacred. He feels the need to expand his range to vodka and vermouth in order to provide a range of products to be more attractive to buyers. I also met with Cameron Mckenzie of Four Pillars Gin, who is encouraged by the potential for growth, including Australia.

Based on all the above, I believe that global sales of gin will be static but new craft gins will continue to appear and do well over the next few years, then level off as the variety becomes overwhelming and consumers settle for their favourites. The big players will create more craft-style gins to cash in on the premium and super premium end, and it is likely that there will be some buy-outs of the smaller, successful brands.