Meet The Winemaker: James & Catherine Kinglake, Domaine Begude

Domaine Begude is a small hilltop domaine very close to the town of Limoux, owned and managed by British couple James and Catherine Kinglake. With beautiful views over the Pyrénées & the Corbières, their vineyards have been organically farmed for the last 30 years and wine has been produced on this historic estate since the 16th  Century.

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They are clearly passionate about maintaining a healthy, living soil and a sustainable environment solely using organic manures to fertilise. They also observe the lunar calendar in viticultural practice at planting, pruning and harvest time.

Domaine Begude is the labour and love of James and Catherine.  Many wine-lovers dream of making their own wine, for most of us it stays a dream; for James and Catherine, it became a life.

james & catherine

The search of the right vineyard was long – they looked at 45 estates in the South of France, but in 2003 they found the one.  The magic wasn’t just the view, but the potential of the terroir.  Limoux is the only cool climate region in the Languedoc and is ideal for growing top-class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

winery and james

They left the London skies behind them in 2004, and have been making wine at Domaine Begude ever since.

Though the Languedoc is best known for Rhône varieties like Grenache, Marsanne, and Syrah, the altitude of Limoux makes it a cool climate area which is perfectly suited to Burgundian varieties and aromatics.  Chardonnay is a speciality, producing fresh and elegant wines at the quality you’d pay double for in Burgundy.  What’s more, they’re committed to Organic farming, believing that treating nature with nature is a more sustainable approach to wine-making, and just as importantly, helps them make the best wine they can.

chardonnay grapes

Begude has 28 hectares of organic certified vines, of which half is Chardonnay and a quarter is Pinot Noir. As well as these they have the only Gruner Veltliner in France, some Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc – which they use in ‘Le Bel Ange’, and Viognier.  Gruner Veltliner isn’t allowed by the local appellation rules, so James labels the wine simply as Exotique GV – which the French assume stands for Grand Vin.

pinot noir budding

The wine making team comprises of Laurent Girault who is the full time oenologue and manager and a consultant wine maker originally from Barossa Valley, Richard Osbourne.  There are 2 full time employees to tend the vines: Vincent Boutin & Driss Yousfi.

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We’ve snapped up a significant parcel (which still isn’t a lot!) of their top Etoile Chardonnay and Esprit Pinot Noir.  They’re fantastic wines which sold out in a snap last time we were able to get our hands on them!

The Etoile Chardonnay is rich and complex, with exceptional elegance showing its cool climate origin.  The Esprit Pinot Noir is in a style similar to those of the Côte de Nuits in Burgundy, with fine tannins, and filled with plum and ripe cherry flavours.

Visit our website to buy the wines or find out more about the Esprit here, and the Etoile here, and you can follow James on twitter @Begude.

Domaine de BEGUDE, Gamme 2010

Meet The Winemaker: James & Catherine Kinglake, Domaine Begude

Australia Vintage Roundup

Ivan, Trainee Manager in our Lytham St Annes store, has been looking at recent vintages in Australia from 2012-2014.  Find out what he discovered!

Over the past couple of years Australia has been showing good results in growing conditions and quality of produced wine. Both 2012 and 2013 have been highly recognised, and unanimous reports of fantastic quality followed the 2012 vintage.  As for 2013, the vintage was ‘not an easy one’ in the words of the Winemakers Federation of Australia. Despite the heat, growing conditions were generally good for growing with enough water throughout summer and winter, which helped to grow highest yields since 2008.Wine-australia

2014 showed some challenges for winemakers with heat-waves followed by downpours.  Growers who held their nerve though pulled in some excellent quality fruit, with fears of rot and split grapes proving unfounded in the Barossa.

Let’s have a closer look.

Barossa ValleyTwo Hands

As season 2014 reds are not yet hitting the shelves, 2012–2013 vintages are more important for Shiraz lovers.   Both of these vintages produced lovely yields and the excellence of wines have been admired by winemakers.

All of this excellence can be seen in some new wines we have recently launched in stores. Such as Basedows of Barossa, which appeared to be a customer hit starting from day 1. This deep cherry red, with a thick and juicy backbone of plum jam and cocoa characters, accented with hints of sweet spice and black pepper wine truly shows the quality of the vintage. Make sure you get one as well!Yalumba Y Series Viognier (2014)

With whites, however, the story is different and you can already find 2014 vintage in our stores, such as Yalumba Y-series Viognier. Season 2014 brought some topsy-turvy weather to start with, and hot periods followed by statewide deluge brought things to standstill. Thereafter, ideal mild weather resulted in fragrant wines at modest alcohol levels. Yalumba Viognier shows this with a nose full of gorgeously perfumed floral scent and ripe stone fruit.

Coonawarra

Season 2014 in Coonawarra will be described by most as one of the longest on record starting Mid February and finishing in the first week of May. The warm weather brought the ripening of many of the varieties on rapidly, but the cool nights and moderate days that the Coonawarra region is famous for soon rolled in around mid to late February, to preserve the acid and flavour of the whites.  The reds, especially Cabernet have benefited significantly from the cool slow ripening period.

Overall, a perfect extended dry and mild ripening season for flavour, colour and tannin development which will deliver a classic Coonawarra vintage. Notably, season 2014 had a lot of similarities with season 2012, which has been described as “excellent” by all winemakers. To experience this yourself, we invite you to try Hamilton Block and Jim Barry Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon which are available in our stores.

Margaret River

For Margaret River the terms “warm, sunny, mild with ocean breeze” typify what is normal and this is what they have experienced throughout 2014 with most in the industry agreeing that it appeared to be a repeat of the excellent growing season leading up to the 2010 vintage.

Truly exceptional white fruit has been grown this year showing very intense varietal flavours.  Chardonnay is displaying outstanding lines of natural acidity balanced with soft and fine phenolics with a flavour profile of citrus, nectarine, summer peach. One of the best examples we offer in stores is Vasse Felix Chardonnay. This toasty, nutty wine with peach and tropical fruits on the palate reveals past few years’ vintage excellence.

With the red vintage all varietals are showing vibrant fruit ripe intensity, great colour and balanced tannin profiles. Milder weather conditions in late April early May delayed final ripening and harvest was about a week later than average. The delayed harvest was perfect for Cabernet Sauvignon and has resulted in excellent wines of weight, concentration and texture. Fruit is pure and silky with a ripe red dark berry flavour profile and soft fine tannins.

You can check out our range of Australian wines here!

Australia Vintage Roundup

Mythbusters: 16 Easy Wine Mistakes

The magic of wine is that it is complex, beguiling, exciting and interesting.   It also tastes pretty darn good too, which we’d argue is the most important thing of all! There’s plenty of myths to trip up the unwary though, and many ‘facts’ taken as truth that are easy to avoid, from serving wine at the wrong temperature, to drinking badly aged wine.  Here we list 16 of the most heinous.

1. Expensive wines are better than cheaper wines.

P1010214I thumb my nose at thee! Better in this instance can be pretty subjective.  Lots of factors can play on a wine’s quality, and [sweeping-generalisation-alert] if you like concentrated, rich wines with plenty of new oak character then bigger is definitely better.  Gets pretty hard going after a sip or two though!  Wine price is affected by a great many things, and it’s entirely possible to pick up a bottle of wine for £10 that you will enjoy just as much as one that costs £20. Or even £200.

2. A big, heavy bottle means it contains better wine.

Nope, it means the winemaker wanted to make a statement. Or more likely, a fez in marketing decided that you, the consumer, will associate weight with authority and quality, and will quite happily shell out a few more quid for the wine.  Not to mention cover the extra shipping costs that add to the price, or the environmental impact of the glass.  Of course, he clearly has confidence in the wine, but a heavy bottle does not better wine make.

3. Serious wine only comes under a cork.

Domaine de BEGUDE, Gamme 2010Fibs! Or do you deny that New Zealand and Australia make seriously enjoyable wine?  Tests have shown that wines can age better, for longer, and more gracefully under screwcap than cork.  Instance of faults are much lower under screwcap as well.  That said, cork is a natural, renewable product and cork production is much higher quality now than ever before, so simply put, don’t let the closure sway you one way or the other.  Unless you forgot your corkscrew.

4. No-one makes good wine in a ‘bad’ year.

7A challenging vintage definitely separates the wheat from the chaff, but that doesn’t mean no good wine results.  Better wine-making technology, the ability to accurately forecast weather, and a host of other tools at the hands of a talented wine operator means that smart cookies can make exceptionally good wine that reflects the year.  It might be lighter in style than the year before, or richer, but it’s a good representation of the grape, the weather, and the place it came from.

5. The best wines are made from only one grape variety.

P1010156One word: Bordeaux.  You can write a beautiful violin solo or piano concerto, and it will be magnificent.  You can sing acapella, and it can be beautiful. The whole orchestra, a choir in harmony.  They’re different, a sum are greater than their parts.  Some instruments work better together than others and complement each other in ways that one alone would not.  Others are better alone for the way they express themselves.  One metaphor later and you get the idea.

6. Opening a bottle lets the wine breathe so it tastes better.

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Source: giphy.com

Yes, a tiny fraction of liquid exposed to air through the top of a bottle is going to have a dramatic effect on your wine.

Not.

If you want wine to breathe, it will need a greater surface area exposed to oxygen in order for it to perceptibly change.  A decanter works, or simply give it time in your glass.  You could also use an aerating pourer, which forces air through the wine as you pour and mimics the effect of decanting.

7. You should always decant an old wine.

Actually in some cases you really shouldn’t, unless you want to drink it all very quickly.  Some very old wines are very fragile, and might be magnificent for the first 5 minutes after decanting and then rather tired after 6 minutes.  If in doubt, pour a small tasting sample, taste it, and taste it again in 10-15 minutes.  Make your choice.

8. Old wines are worth more than young wines.

L&W 1007Not by default.  Scarcity – supply and demand, as with all things, is the real factor in price.

9. Old wines taste better than young wines.

As trite as it sounds, they just taste different.  As they age, wines lose overt fruit character  and develop more ‘tertiary’ characters from bottle age, fruit becomes more dried and you may see more nutty, savoury characters emerging.  The majority of wines made aren’t intended to age, and lack the components a wine needs to mature gracefully.  These are usually fruity, fresh wines intended for immediate consumption.  So that bottle of Vina Sol in your wine rack from 5 years ago?  Yeahhhh… Would have been lovely. 5 years ago.

10. You should wait for the perfect time to drink any bottle that’s worth ageing.

This one is actually true – except that the perfect time to drink any bottle is usually ‘Now’.

11. Champagne doesn’t age.

P1010196It’s true that most champagnes are Non-Vintage, which means that they are a blend of wines made in different years to maintain a consistent style.  These are released ‘ready-to-drink’, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be kept for a while.  Many, such as Bollinger and Louis Roederer, will continue to mature over 3-5 years.  They’ll develop richer, nuttier and honeyed notes and the fruit character will go from zippy-fresh to ripe.  Vintage-dated champagne, similarly, can be consumed on release, but the best years can be kept for decades.  They may lose some of their effervescence, but they make up for it in flavour and texture.

12. All wine critics are experts.

Wine encompasses more than just how good it tastes!  The subject is huge, covering culture, economics, botany, chemistry, geography, geology, climatology, biochemistry, politics, and more besides. Do you know anyone who is an expert in all those fields?  Trust people for their palates, but only a very few can claim to be experts, and most of those would be too humble to do so.

13. Red wine should be served at room temperature.

If your room is between 15°-18°C, then absolutely!  The warmer they get, the more they loose their elegance and end up being baked, sweet and jammy.  Similarly, serving white wine too cold will strip it of all flavour.  With both Red and White, the fuller bodied the style, the warmer you should serve it:

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The ideal temperature to store wine – so-called ‘cellar temperature’ is between 12°-14° and the most important thing is that the temperature is steady with no big fluctuations.

14. Better the label, the better the wine.

P1010225Pretty graphics maketh not the game.  Some of the best wines in the world have labels you wouldn’t look twice at.  That being said, some also have amazing labels that really catch the eye or make an artistic statement – like Mouton Rothschild.  Don’t judge a book by its cover.

15. ABC, darling.

Never let fashion dictate what you enjoy; be a tastemaker, not a slave to fashion!  Anything but Chardonnay/Cabernet (delete as appropriate) was a movement stemmed from the dominance of these varieties in the Californian market back in the 1990s, and at the same time in the UK where there was a glut of cheap, over-oaked chardonnay from Australia.  Which is a shame, because a lot of people still believe, mistakenly, that Australian chardonnay is all big and over-oaked.  Oak is really, really amazing when used right, and adds beautiful texture and complex, enticing character to wine, though it’s easy to overdo.

16. Red with meat, white with fish!

This is a rule of thumb, not an immutable law.  Match big wine and big food, sure, but if the Gentleman wishes Corton-Charlemagne with his Steak Bearnaise because he enjoys it, and the Lady wishes Malbec with her Fillet of Halibut, then who the heck are we to argue?  There are some great matches, and some horrendous clashes (smoked salmon and claret should never ever happen, ever) – if you’re interested in learning more, come along to one of our free in-store Wine Courses.

Mythbusters: 16 Easy Wine Mistakes

Wine Travels: Our Buyers Suzie and Justin Do Australia

Of a wine Buyers’ duties, travelling far and afield to discover the next great bottle for you to enjoy is perhaps one of their most gruelling.  To Buying Director Justin and Australian Buyer Suzie fell this grim and onerous task.  For over a week they endured, and bravely returned with this tale…

Suzie & Justin do Aus

It’s too early to say definitively, but 2015 looks set to be a good quality vintage across most parts of Australia. It’s an early vintage though; we thought we would be there ahead of the harvest when the winemakers and growers were sitting around waiting for it all to happen…! Some people are fully four weeks ahead of schedule with most of the whites already in tank and the red on their way in from the vineyards. From start to finish the vintage would usually last around 90 days for many producers but most thought it would all be over within 60 days.

With so many places visited and wines tasted, it’s not possible to mention all of them on this blog. Here are a few of the highlights:

Rollo and Gary Crittenden

Not content with viticulture, Rollo and Gary Crittenden are also masters of horticulture

We started the trip on 23rd February in Mornington Peninsula, south east of Melbourne. You’ve heard talk of this being a cool climtate growing region – believe it! It was a sunny 26 degree when we left the city but just forty minutes drive away in Mornington it was 16 degrees and raining! Yabby Lake, Crittenden Estate and Ten Minutes by Tractor were all on our list that afternoon.

There is some really classy Pinot Noir and Chardonnay coming out of this region – even the most committed Burgundy fans would be pleasantly surprised. Lovely bright varietal fruit character, crisp natural acidity and well judged French oak.

Tim Shand - Head Winemaker at Punt Road

Pick a bottle, any bottle… just take a punt

From Mornington we headed up to the Yarra Valley where we tasted with our existing supplier De Bortoli plus two old friends – Yering Station and Punt Road.

There is a lot of interest and experimenting going on with Sangiovese and other Italian varietals in this region as well as some burgeoning interest in Malbec! There is certainly plenty more to Australia than big oaky Chardonnay and bold blockbuster Shiraz. The big differences in site and aspect are also easy to see once you get out and see how cool and high some of the vineyards are.

On Wednesday 25th we flew from Melbourne to Adelaide and from there straight to the McLaren Vale. First stop was Tintara, part of the Hardy’s estate, where we had a full tasting with head wine maker Paul Lapsley – a very impressive line up of wines, the stand outs of which being the Eileen Hardy range.

All wine makers do things a bit differently, but none more so than Sarah and Sparky Marquis at Mollydooker.

It's Aussie for Left Handed.

It’s Aussie for Left Handed.

They use a specially developed irrigation system here and harvest their grapes later than most of their neighbours to produce powerful, rich and supple wines that drink perfectly from bottling (insert photo of us tasting at Molly Dooker). The Molly Dooker cat, Jack, also took rather a liking to Justin!

In Black Cat, Silver Fox met his match.

In Black Cat, Silver Fox met his match.

In McLaren Vale we also visited our long standing friends Kevin and Helen O’Brien from Kangarilla Road winery. They have a fantastic new tasting room – for any of your heading down under, definitely worth a visit! Later that same day we also went to d’Arenberg where the wines – as usual – did not disappoint. Full of personality and class.

Red Stripe for the wine world

Red Stripe for the wine world

Our final stop in McLaren was at Wirra Wirra where we tasted through another great line up of wines. We have a special small parcel of the Lost Watch Riesling coming in late April – a trophy winner and one to look out for (while it lasts!).

I knew we should have packed a bigger glass.

I knew we should have packed a bigger glass.

Up and across into the Adelaide Hills we visited Shaw & Smith , a very stylish operation that is really going places with the talented Adam Wadewitz at the wine making helm. . Here you can see the 2015 M3 Chardonnay just off the wine pre press!

Justin was unfamiliar with the concept of wine pills.

Justin was unfamiliar with the concept of wine pills.

Further north and up towards Barossa the mercury struck 38 degrees as we reached Yalumba. Yet another awesome, diverse range of wines made by Chief Winemaker Louisa Rose who has been at Yalumba for 23 years. Her commitment to quality and excellence is evident right across the extensive range she is in charge of vinifying here.

Yalumba were never sure if their flagpole for children would catch on.

Yalumba were never sure if their flagpole for children would catch on.

At Two Hands in Barossa we bumped into Zoe Wilde, Manager of our Dundee store, who was in the midst of helping out with the 2015 vintage (and she had the red wine stained hands to prove it!) Here the wines are big on personality, reflecting the passion and dedication of winemaker Michael Twelftree.

Do a barrel roll!

A treat to finish the tasting here – the delicious “Fait Accompli” fortified Muscat.

On from there to Peter Lehmann, byword for quality and consistency in the Barossa Valley and another long standing partner of Majestic. Just the 39 years at PL for Winemaker Andrew “Wig” Wigan!!Andrew Wigan - just the 26 years as Head Winemaker at Peter Lehmann...

Not known to Majestic, next we visited Rolf Binder, also in the Barossa Valley. Probably the most impressive vineyard we saw in the whole trip – a plot of 125 year old, ungrafted, bush vine Mataro.In amongst the 125yr old Mataro vines at Rolf Binder Rolf’s wines are intense, complex and varietally true. Great to meet you Rolf and thanks for giving up your Sunday to host us!

Further north in the Clare Valley we visited Jim Barry. The people, the wines, the place all so full of character – this was a very memorable visit! Malbec is on the agenda here too – here is the 2015 fermenting away!2015 Malbec fermenting at Jim Barry in the Clare Valley A fantastic tasting through the range with team Barry was followed by a trip up to their Lodge Hill Vineyard where we sipped their 2007 Riesling and watched few kangaroos bounce pass – very civilised!Peter Barry, Justin, Tom Barry, Suzie and Sam Barry in the Lodge Hill Vineyard, Clare Valley

The final day of the trip took us to Taylors, Wolf Blass and Penfolds. All with impressive line ups of wine and worthy of the international renown these wineries each have. Meeting and tasting with Peter Gago of Penfolds at the beautiful Magill Estate was a great way to finish the trip. Plenty more besides, but highlights from this tasting were three vintages each of Bin 389, St Henri and Grange…I’ll admit it, there are worse jobs.Penfolds Tasting with the man himself - Peter Gago - what a way to finish the trip

Wine Travels: Our Buyers Suzie and Justin Do Australia

My Secret Margaret River: Virginia Willcock

Virgina Willcock, winemaker at Vasse Felix, gives away her secret must-visit spots in Australia’s Margaret River.

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To get to Margaret River you have to fly to the world’s most isolated continental capital city, Perth, and then drive three hours south. Some may wonder whether we have moved on from the horse and cart!

To the contrary, Margaret River is a cosmopolitan country town which has blossomed since its modern wine industry began in the late sixties. The region has the most pristine beaches, cliffs and forests in the world, and in my mind is the coolest destination outside any city. Those who come here have heard how amazing it is and make the journey without disappointment. Many never leave!

Visit in summer for a beach adventure (November is the Margaret River Gourmet Escape, April is the Margaret River Pro) or enjoy a cosy country getaway and breathtaking colourful landscapes in winter. Both options are equally spectacular.

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Margaret River the wine region also has a town called Margaret River which is the stunning town in which I live. Around town you will find a mix of hardcore surfers, eclectic talented artists, cutting-edge chefs surrounded with awesome produce and winemakers who are passionate about making quality, world-class wines.

Chefs and winemakers love to eat and drink, so the town is full of great venues. After enjoying lunch at your pick of some of Australia’s best winery restaurants (Leeuwin Estate, Cape Lodge, Wills Domain and our very own restaurant at Vasse Felix), save some time to visit some of my favourite places.

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Eat: I love to eat at “Miki’s Open Kitchen” Tempura style Japanese, its tiny and you need to book but it’s worth it, or “La Scapetta“, Rustic Italian at the start of town with a great zampone (stuffed pig trotter on lentils).

Drink: My cellar at home does serve me well, but I do love to hit the awesome house brewed beer on tap and incredible wine list at the “Settlers Tavern“. Great bands on weekends and a fun Sunday session in the beer garden out front with live acoustic artists. (And they’ve just put in a meat smoker too.)  “Morries” offers unique home-made cocktails, with the most fun bar staff in town.

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Sleep: I would recommend booking somewhere in town so you can go out for a few drinks and walk home. There are many apartment rentals in town you can find online. For a more relaxing oceanside luxe experience, Injidup Spa retreat is unbeatable. Alternatively, save on your accommodation by camping at Hamelin Bay, a beautiful beach out of town to the south.

Shop: The Farmers Market on Saturday morning is well worth visiting for great local produce, especially the lamb and pig from “The Farm Shop”. Also go to “Sugar Man“, the coolest shop in town for art, t-shirts, jeans, jackets and most of all, the best coffee to drink while you look around. There are so many great places for coffee though. Blue Ginger is a sit down option with the best gourmet deli in town (this is where I generally see all my local mates on a Saturday morning after the markets). Alternatively, go to “Brewshack.” It is run by beautiful girls – so all the boys go here for coffee – meaning beautiful people are everywhere!

See: The vineyards and estates are surrounded by beaches, caves and forests. If you can, find a 4-wheel-drive and head to Wilyabrup beach/cliffs. Unbelievably stunning. The whole coast is amazing really and most main sites are accessible by a normal car, just head west and make your own adventure discovering the rugged cliffs and hidden beaches. In summer, swim at Redgate Beach to the south or Smith’s Beach to the north. And if you are arty pop in to Jahroc Gallery which is in town itself.

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Thanks Victoria! You can browse our range of Australian wines here.

My Secret Margaret River: Virginia Willcock

The Secrets Behind The Perfect G&T

There’s something very refreshing, and very British, about a Gin and Tonic. It harkens back to Colonial times and days of Empire past, when Blighty, not that young American upstart or those industrious Chinese fellows, was the true Superpower of the world. Alas, no more, but Gin remains as quintissentially British as Tea, stiff upper lips, and losing gracefully at sports we invented. Just like Tea, we nicked it from somewhere else and made it our own, too, though unlike Cricket, we do Tea and Gin better than everyone else.

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Gin, to paraphrase the finger-stirring Gary ‘Gaz’ Regan, is a sultry mistress. The Historical Gin of yesteryear, however, was a very different beast to the sultry minx we enjoy today. She was a robust and pungent, rough and bullsome wench who went about with a clenched fist and a gnarled expression, whereas today she can certainly still leave you laid out on your back and wishing you hadn’t been quite so rude, she does it with a kiss before she takes you out with her perfect little handbag.

Oh, but we love her. And she has a fascinating history.

Gin’s story begins around 1055,with tthe first written reference to a Juniper flavoured acqua-ardens (burning water) in the Compendia Salerno, in Italy, where it was likely being proscribed as a health tonic.

"Juniperus communis cones" by MPF - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

Juniperus communis cones” by MPFOwn work. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

During the Black Death, Plague Doctors would stuff their beaked masks with Juniper Berries to ward off the foul odors and airs of the Plague, believing that it would protect them from falling prey. They were partially right – Juniper is a deterrent to the rats that people believed to have carried the Black Death.  Ever worried that you’re never further than 6ft from a rat? Gin could be your answer.

Paul_Fürst,_Der_Doctor_Schnabel_von_Rom_(Holländer_version)
Two hundred years later in 1269 we see the first mention of Juniper-based health tonics, in 1552 Phillipus Hermanni recorded a recipe for a Juniper eau-de-vie in his Conselijck Distiller’s Book.  Juniper is also thought to aid kidney function.

In 1575 Lucas Bulsius (later Bols) set up a distillery in Amsterdam, producing his first Genever in 1602. Genever is the direct predecessor to Gin, though it differs owing to the addition of Malt Wine and is sweetened after distillation; imagine sweet gin with a touch of whisky and you’re part way there.

British soldiers fighting in the Dutch War of Independence (1618-1648) developed a taste for Genever (which they referred to as gin); the tradition of taking a measure of Genever before going in to battle is the origin of the phrase ‘Dutch Courage’. They took their love of this Juniper-based spirit home with them.

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In 1688 the English King William of Orange began to restrict imports of French Brandy and encouraged the production of Gin (which also helped find a market for a surplus of grain).

The Gin Act of 1751 granted licences to distill Gin and restrictions on its production, and consumption decreased; the new legislation also had the effect of improving the quality of the spirit.  This was also the year that William Hogarth produced his famous diptych, Beer Street and Gin Lane.  These satirical prints viewed together showed the merits of English ale over the evils of gin, but also implied a connection between the two – that the prosperity shown in Beer Street was responsible for the depravity in Gin Lane.

"GinLane" by William Hogarth - UnknownTransferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:NotFromUtrecht using CommonsHelper.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

GinLane” by William Hogarth – UnknownTransferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:NotFromUtrecht using CommonsHelper.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

In this period, many of the brands we know today were founded. Booth’s Gin was founded in 1740, Alexander Gordon founded his distillery in 1769. Mr Coates founded Plymouth Gin (the only gin in the world to have AOC Status) at Black Friar’s in Plymouth in 1793. James Burroughs perfected his recipe for Beefeater in 1820 (though did not begin commercial production until 1863) and Charles Tanqueray, a Silversmith, founded his distillery in 1830.

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In 1830, a game changer: Robert Stein and Aneas Coffey developed the ‘continuous’ still, allowing for a pure, high quality spirit. Botanicals in gin now no-longer masked poor spirit, they could take centre-stage.

P1010164And the perfect G&T?

Easy. Here’s how you can nail it every time with these simple tricks:

  1. Choose your gin according to your taste, mood, or whim.
  2. Select your tonic. This is the big secret – using cheap or poor quality tonic is a bit like putting taking a delicious lobster and covering it in generic unbranded ketchup from a roadside canteen.  Your mixer matters. For best results, we recommend Fever Tree.
  3. Add all the cubed ice you can cram in your glass. Ice melts faster if there’s less of it, so to keep your drink optimal for longer, get as much in the glass as you can fit.
  4. Pour a healthy measure of gin over the ice. Top up with Tonic. We’re fans of the 1:3 ratio of Gin:Tonic
  5. Garnish according to your preference – lime, lemon, cucumber, grapefruit, strawberry, black pepper… it all works, just go with what you fancy!

Simple as that! You can browse our full range of Gins online here.

The Secrets Behind The Perfect G&T

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