Bolney Wine launches gin made from English wine

Bolney Wine Estate has launched a new business making gin from the by-products of its English winemaking production.

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The gin is being made by new company Foxhole Spirits, which was incorporated in February and although based at the Bolney Wine Estates (it has been named after vineyards on the estates) and working closely with the wine team, is owned and run as a separate entity. It is being headed by Plumpton College graduate James Oag-Cooper as managing director, but has Bolney’s md and head winemaker Sam Linter and her husband Graham as two of its directors.

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The idea to create a gin to use the waste-products of winemaking has been planned and developed by Linter and Oag-Cooper over the last four years.

“It’s been one of the things that has bothered me [that there was this waste] – it really irritated me! ” Linter told db. “We had a lightbulb moment because gin was becoming so popular, and we were interested to see if the wine character would give something [different to the gin]. It brings some amazing flavour profiles and we want it to be representative of coming from the wine.”

Oag-Cooper said that in a typical harvest, because of the nature of wine-making, around 30- 40% of the grape material was not used, and it is this “wastage” the company wants to use for the gin, by distilling the second pressing of the grapes – the taille – that normally gets thrown away.

“As a company, we want to promote sustainability and creativity in English wine and reduce industry waste,” he said. “This process provides Foxhole Gin with a production method that is unique and not currently used for any other gin produced in the UK.”

Foxhole Gin launches its English-wine based gin

Foxhole Gin launches its English-wine based gin

“Because we have fermented the taille, we are getting the maximum out of the products,” Linter added.

The recipe was developed over 18 months to avoid being too brandy-like in character, with the grape spirit giving a “velvety and creamy texture” and floral characteristics of violets and white blossom, that has been combined with a selection of classic botanicals including juniper, coriander, angelica root, orris root, liquorice root, bitter orange, fresh lemon zest, grapefruit zest and angelica seeds.

However the team found that the ‘neutral grape spirit’ produced was so intensely aromatic that it has to be cut with a percentage of neutral grain spirit so that the flavour of the wine doesn’t overpower the juniper, Oag-Cooper said, but he is keen to increase the percentage of pure grape spirit over time.

“It was a real challenge to balance the grape spirit with the botanicals, as the grape spirit brought a lot of character,” Oag-Cooper said. “But it was very important that the product reflected where it had come from.”

Production on the gin started last year using a small amount of juice collecting from the 2014 harvest, but production is expected to grow.

“We could have made more but due to the pressure of harvest – and experimentation – we only made 3.5k L out of the total processing (of 120k bottles, or 90k L) and it took us half-way through the harvest to get it sussed. Now we have total extraction and have it licked!” Linter told db earlier this year.

The first batch, made from the 2014 vintage, has been launched as a limited edition of 960 hand-numbered bottles, however production will be doubled in the second batch to just under 2,000 bottles, which is the maximum that can be made in one batch.

The vineyard already has a ten-year plan to significantly increase its wine production, doubling output by 2020 through partnerships with local growers in the area and then doubling again by increasing its own acreage and plantings, and this is expected to feed into the gin business, Oag-Cooper said.

“We predict that at the rate Bolney is growing, we will grow at a very good level as well,” Oag-Cooper said, but added that if there was the demand, the company would not limit its sourcing to the Bolney estate, but could look to other English vineyards. “We will grow independently as well,” he said.

The gin is now on sale online (RRP: £45) and at the Bolney shop as well as a selection of independent retailers and bars, including Seven Cellars in Brighton, and The Anchor Tap and Dark Star Brew Company in Horsham, with more in the pipeline. It is also being stocked by wholesales C&O Wines.

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