Eleven English and Welsh wineries that make their own spirits and vermouth
We’ve rounded up the English and Welsh wineries that have dipped their toes into the world of spirits, from Chapel Down’s Bacchus gin to Albourne’s vermouth, flavoured with 40 botanicals.
The English and Welsh wine industries have grown rapidly in recent years, and so too has the range of products they offer. With today’s focus on the environment and being sustainable, wineries have developed ways in which to recycle and re-use grape material leftover after pressing, using it to flavour spirits.
A total of three million vines were planted in the UK last year, following on from 1.6m in 2018 and 1m in 2017. However, as vines require time to mature, and with further time required to make and mature sparkling wine afterwards, wineries also require other ways to supplement their income.
Chapel Down, headquartered in Kent, has gone the furthest down this route, branching into spirits, beer and cider, as well as producing still and sparkling wines.
Others, however, still remain mostly devoted to wine, but also make a spirit on the side. Meanwhile, businesses such as Foxhole Spirits and Asterley Bros have made it their mission to work with vineyards, using leftover grapes and wine to produce their range of expressions.
Click through to view the UK wineries involved in spirit production.
Headquartered in Kent, Chapel Down has transformed itself over the years from solely a wine producer into a company that makes a wide range of English drinks, from gin and vodka to beer and cider.
Reflecting its winemaking origins in its branding, it launched a gin and vodka, made with grape distillate, in 2017. Packaged in custom-made glass bottles, Chapel Down aimed to represent both distilling and winemaking, with the bottom half of the bottle finished in clear, cut-glass while the top is frosted and in the shape of a classic wine bottle.
The gin, made from Bacchus grape distillate, is priced £35 and is infused with juniper, coriander, elderflower, orris root, angelica, lavender, orange peel and lemon. The vodka, meanwhile, is made with Chardonnay grape distillate, and is described as “expressive” with “delicate citrus and floral aromas leading to a smooth, creamy palate”.
Both are grain spirits, with the grape element used as a sort of botanical.
The final spirit in the company’s range is its Lamberhurst brandy, made from Sevyal Blanc grapes grown in the Lamberhurst Estate. The spirit was distilled in 1992 by Julian Temperley in Somerset before being matured in French oak barrels for 23 years. Only 2,000 bottles were ever made, with each one now commanding a £150 price tag.
Last year, the English drinks company also opened its bar, distillery and restaurant in London’s Kings Cross called the Gin Works.
Currently, the producer works with contract distillers, with the distillery at Gin Works used to produce small batch products. Mark Harvey, managing director of wines and spirits at Chapel Down, told the drinks business back in October that the site would also be used to produce custom gins for the bars and restaurants with whom Chapel Down works.
Given that Chapel Down has opened its own brewery in Ashford, it is possible that it could bring its entire spirit production in house in the future.
Rathfinny, established in 2010 in Alfriston, released its first spirit before its first sparkling wines. Unveiled in 2016, the producer’s Seven Sisters gin is made from a blend of 30% grape spirit and 70% grain spirit and infused with nine botanicals, including juniper, coriander, angelica, orris, liquorice, lemon, bitter orange, angelica seed and hyssop.
The English wine producer also makes a vermouth, made from Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc grapes grown on its estate. It is infused with botanicals such as artichoke, gentian, calamus root, wormwood, angelica and the zest of bitter orange, lemon and pink grapefruit.
Rathfinny currently makes three Sussex sparklers – the first launched in 2018 – including a blanc de blancs, a rosé and blanc de noirs. It also makes still wines under the Cradle Valley label, including a white blend made from Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc and a Pinot Noir rosé. In 2018, due to the bountiful vintage, it made its first still red Pinot Noir.
Like Rathfinny, Bolney Wine Estate in West Sussex also makes a gin and a vermouth. In 2018, the estate launched a rosso vermouth, distilled with botanicals grown in the vineyard hedgerows.
It is made with with sloe and elderberries, as well as Bolney’s surplus grape juice, allowing the producer to ensure that nothing is wasted during the winemaking process.
More recently, in November 2019, the winery launched its first gin, an expression flavoured with hawthorn leaves and fennel and made using grape distillate produced from press juice that was too phenolic to make wine.
The gin is also flavoured with botanicals including juniper, bay leaf, caraway, cubeb, lemon peel, grain of paradise, fennel and coriander seed.
Also in 2018, boutique Sussex vineyard and winery Albourne Estate launched a vermouth.
Called ‘40’ in honour of the 40 different botanicals in the blend, the 18% ABV semi-dry vermouth was created by owner Alison Nightingale, who was keen to put an English twist on an Italian classic.
The vermouth is made from matured Albourne Estate base wines, which are blended with the botanical extract and sugar.
The result, according to Nightingale, is a “complex and elegant” drink that can be enjoyed on its own as an apéritif, with tonic, with sparkling wine or in a cocktail.
Alongside its still and sparkling wines, last year Albourne also unveiled what it claims is England’s first frizzante wine made from Bacchus grapes from the 2018 vintage.
Albury Organic Vineyard in Surrey is conveniently located right by the Silent Pool Distillery. It’s only natural, therefore, that the two businesses have collaborated.
Like Rathfinny, Bolney and Albourne, it has also made a vermouth, made from a distillate of Sauvignon Blanc grapes blended with Pinot Noir and botanical infusions of herbs, spices and citrus peel. Botanicals include wormwood, cacao, coffee, vanilla, rooibos tea leaves, Albury honey, cassia bark, orange peel, nutmeg, ginger, honeybush leaf, lemon balm and meadowsweet.
Other spirits in its portfolio include Attila’s Bite, named after the estate’s parson russell terrier. An eau de vie de vin, the spirit was made from Seyval Blanc grapes and according to the producer, has flavours of pear and crisp grape, with a buttery finish and a hint of almond.
Finally, Albury also makes its Duke’s Reserve brandy each year, using leftover pressing juice. It is named after the Duke of Northumberland, who owns the estate in Albury where the vineyard is situated. Less than 200 bottles are made each year.
Boutique vineyard in East Anglia, Tuffon Hall, produces a gin in addition to its still and sparkling wines.
Aptly named Tuffon Hall Grape Gin, the spirit is made using using the skins from the producer’s Bacchus grapes after pressing.
Other botanicals include include juniper, coriander seed, orange zest, minneola tangelo, bay leaves, lemon zest. Priced at £39 a bottle, the gin is made in a small batch 200-litre copper pot still.
Giffords Hall in Suffolk produces a line of four liqueurs in addition to its still and sparkling wines.
The raspberry liqueur is made with locally-grown fruit and the producer recommends serving it in a ‘Suffolk Raspberry Cosmopolitan’. Also in the line-up is a limoncello, a sloe liqueur and an apple liqueur, made with 80% home-grown apples.
Each liqueur is priced at £17.50 per 35cl bottle.
Gusbourne x Asterley Bros
South London based distillers Asterley Bros have teamed up with Kent-based Gusbourne to produce a range of vermouths.
The distiller’s Dispense Amaro is based on a 17th century recipe from the London Dispensatory, combining Gusbourne Estate Pinot Noir, spirit made from molasses, and an organic neutral grain spirit.
It is flavoured with 24 botanical including English hops, orange, grapefruit, lime, vanilla, apricots, raisins, dates, basil, rosemary, kaffir lime, ginger, lemongrass, coriander, cardamom, gentian, devil’s claw, rhubarb, chickweed, hyssop, milk thistle, liquorice, myrrh and angelica.
The Estate Vermouth, also made with Gusbourne’s Pinot Noir, is produced in the Italian ‘rosso’ style, and infused with 31 botanicals including orange, cacao, rosemary and wormwood.
Asterley also makes a dry vermouth, combining English white wine and grape spirit, infused with 28 botanicals including rose, cardamom, rosemary, savory, wormwood, cinchona and yarrow.
Glyndwr Vineyard, which claims to be the oldest in Wales having been established in 1979, not only makes still and sparkling wines, but also brandy.
First launched in 2017, the brandy, available in 20cl bottles for £15, and is made from the vineyard’s Seyval Blanc grapes.
The grapes are then fermented and distilled before being aged in oak barrels for four years.
According to the producer, the spirit takes on “rich, peaty and earthy aromas”.
At the time of its launch, Glyndwr Vineyard said it was the first brandy to be made from Welsh-grown grapes.
Bolney x Foxhole Spirits
Launched in 2016, Foxhole specialises in making grape-based gin. Headed up by managing director and Plumpton College graduate James Oag-Cooper, the company has worked with Bolney Wine Estate since it was established. Indeed, Bolney’s managing director and head winemaker Sam Linter and her husband Graham are two of the company’s directors.
The idea was to create a spirit using the waste products of winemaking, which can be as much as 30-40% of the total grape material.
Foxhole Gin, as it was subsequently called, is flavoured with botanicals including juniper, coriander, angelica root, orris root, liquorice root, bitter orange, fresh lemon zest, grapefruit zest and angelica seeds.
Foxhole Spirits has gone on to launch Hyke gin, made from internationally sourced table grapes and flavoured with botanicals including coriander, myrrh and rooibos.
Litmus x GinKing
English pre-mixed drink brand Ginking is owned by wine business consultancy and production firm Litmus, which in turn is based at Denbies Wine estate in Surrey.
The product was created by John Worontschak when one night, his wife struggled to decide between a G&T and a glass of English fizz.
Bottled at 8.5% ABV, GinKing is a blend of gin, spring water, English sparkling wine and botanicals.
It has since been launched in a number of different variants, using internationally sourced wines.