March 20, 2006

Grape-based vodkas

Photo provided

There's a bit of a controversy, spearheaded by traditional vodka makers, trying to keep grape-based distillations from being called vodkas. However, in the minds of many, that's just some people being afraid of more competition in a crowded market. Here's a look at three such distillations.


Billed as "The vodka for wine lovers," the new release from Boisset America is distilled from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes from Burgundy, France. The grapes come from France's Cote-de-Nuits and Cote-de-Beaune regions, fermented the same way as for wine, then distilled close to the vineyards, using a seven-column continuous distillation process to extract exceptionally pure alcohol. Local spring water is blended with the distilled alcohol to bring it down to 40% alcohol (80 proof) before being filtered five times. Idol winds up with a very smooth, slightly sweet taste.


Another French grape-based vodka. It actually has sort of a grapey nose even though vodka must, by definition, be essentially neutral in color, taste and nose. Nothing out of the ordinary, however, despite a glitzy ad campaign.

Hangar 1:

Jorg Rupf, a renowned maker of fruit brandies in his St. George Distillery housed in a former airplane hangar on Alameda Island in San Francisco Bay, makes this premium-priced vodka from Viognier grapes. It stands up to any competitor, foreign or domestic, for clarity, smoothness and lightly nuanced reaction on the palate. Giving it the freezer treatment draws out the taste of the neutral grape spirits blended into the vodka.

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