by The Wine Guys, Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr
If you live long enough, you’ll see consumer products and their fan base come and go. Hoola-hoops, cold duck, chia pets, bellbottom pants – all fads that have disappeared. Now, let’s look at gin.
Fifty years ago, gin was the stuff of very dry martinis and gin and tonics in the sweltering months. British imports dominated the premium market with brands such as Beefeater and Tanqueray leading the way. Domestically, Gilbey’s, Gordons and Seagram’s often slaked the thirst of those with more limited means.
Interest and consumption of gin has waxed and waned in the recent past, and today, gin makers are basking in newfound interest in this clear spirit. However, the dominant dry English market style of gin with prevalent juniper notes (from the infusion of juniper berries) and citrus peel, has yielded -- at least among younger consumers -- to a panoply of different styles by utilizing a variety of techniques, including barrel aging, varying hues, and an array of flavors and scents. Gin bars, some featuring hundreds of different gins, are well established in the U.K. with interest spreading to the U. S.
We recently tasted four smaller production gins that represent a sampling of this contemporary styled method of making gin.
The Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin ($40-50 for 750ml) is produced in the small Irish town of Drumshanbo and features, of all things, a depiction of the mythical American jackalope. Distilled from grain with gunpowder tea as well as a number of other herbs and spices, this gin will not be off-putting for those gin drinkers who cling to the classic juniper gin experience. Don’t be put off by the gunpowder moniker; it simply refers to the appearance of individual rolled leaves, usually green tea, used to infuse this gin.
The Gunpowder Gin displayed a balance of lemon peel, juniper, floral and anise notes. Re:Find Gin ($40-45 for 750ml) hails from Paso Robles in California and is crafted from the saignee -- bleeding off of some of the unfermented must of red wine grapes that grow profusely in the region. The saignee process concentrates the remaining unfermented juice to create a more intense red wine. This gin features classic juniper notes but leans toward a display of cardamon notes that give this gin an unusual but pleasant twist.
Barr Hill Gin ($35-40 for 750ml) is produced in Vermont and is a partnership between a beekeeper and distiller. The base for this gin is a corn spirit that is infused with juniper and combined with raw honey. This sweeter presentation is a throwback to an earlier era when sweetener was added to gin in a style called “Old Tom.”
We found the juniper notes very apparent and the abundance of honey notes blended well and subdued the piney sharpness.
Holland’s Nolet’s Distillery is mostly known for their premium vodka Ketel One. However, they also produce an iconoclastic gin Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin ($40-50 for 750ml) that turns the world of classic juniper scented gins on their head. Distilled from grain, this is the most intensely floral gin that we have ever tasted. Liquid roses with just a token of juniper would describe this delicious and classic.
It’s hard to believe, but the ubiquitous sparkling wine prosecco was relatively rare in the United States until 20 years ago. Since then, prosecco has been on a tear, increasing over 10 percent annually in recent years and leading sparkling wine sales in the U.S. Reasons for this growth and popularity vary but low cost, food pairing flexibility and mixability certainly contribute to this impressive trend.
Prosecco is made from at least 85 percent glera grapes, which in the past were sometimes referred to as prosecco grapes. Grown in the Prosecco region north and west of Venice, several other white grapes are allowed to make up the balance. Up to 15 percent pinot noir can be blended with glera for rosé prosecco. Rosé prosecco is definitely the new kid on the block since wine officials in Italy only granted DOC status in January of this year.
Prosecco is a great inexpensive choice for making brunch mimosas and many other traditional sparkling wine cocktails, such as kir royale.
Like other sparkling wines, prosecco pairs well with many foods, especially chicken, fish dishes and an assortment of appetizers.
We recently tasted through a selection of 6 proseccos, including 2 rosés, and selected 3 that we felt merited the attention of our readers.
Our two favorite proseccos were produced by the giant Italian cooperative producer Cavit, which is the largest producer of varietal wines in Italy. We tasted Cavit’s Lunetta Prosecco Rose ($15) and were really impressed. The sparkler featured a bold, slightly sweet style that featured lovely cherry and strawberry notes. Very easy to just sip by itself.
The extra-dry Cavit Prosecco ($15-17) presented citrus, green apple notes with bright acidity and a wee hint of sweetness.
Lastly, we enjoyed the Valdo Prosecco Brut ($15), a product of the Bolla wine company, which drank more like a sparkling wine made from a bolder, more distinctive grape such as chardonnay. The Valdo tasted and displayed scents of ripe, yellow Delicious apples and a hint of tropical fruit with a pleasant yeasty note. Serve this one by itself to maximize enjoyment.
Bico Amarelo 2019 ($12). This light and simple white blend from the Vinho Verde region of Portugal is a nice spring wine to sip. It consists of loureiro, alvarinho and avesso grapes. Citrus and tropical fruit notes dominate with a touch of minerality.
Quinta do Ameal Loureiro 2019 ($18). Made entirely of loureiro grapes common to Portugal, this vibrant wine has racy acidity and citrus, melon notes to go with seafood or to just sip by itself.
Gaja Ca’Marcanda Promis 2019 ($50). Made by one of the most reputable producers in Italy, this offshoot from the Maremma region is a dense, concentrated blend of merlot, syrah and sangiovese. Lavender and blue fruit aromas with plum and blackberry flavors. Worth the price.