If nothing else the booming ginaissance has thrown the gauntlet down to enterprising distillers to come up with ever-more imaginative concoctions to tempt and titivate the taste buds of the gin aficionados.
I have tried a few gins which use a grape rather than neutral grain spirit as their base. To my taste this gives a rather sharp, if not astringent, complexion to the drink, not unpleasant but different and not one you would readily associate with a traditional gin. Inevitably, the next step is to concoct a gin and wine hybrid. A number of these drinks, I hesitate to call them gins, have emerged in the last few months in a concerted attempt to ensnare oenophiles into the world of gin. One such is Sorgin Gin which can be found on the shelves of your local Aldi supermarket.
This is the brainchild of French wine growers and vineyard owners, Sabine Jaren and Francois Lurton. The starting point is a distillate made from Sauvignon grapes from Gascony in the south-west of France. The name is rather clever, the first syllable tipping its chapeau to the variety of grape used, but, in fact, the disyllabic word is Basque for a sorceress or witch, proof positive, if you needed it, that you can improve your knowledge by drinking.
What will cause the hardened gin enthusiast to blanche, if not recoil in horror, is what is done to the juniper. It is not added in its pure form but as a distillate so that its notes do not overpower the subtler fragrances of the Sauvignon Blanc. But for me that is enough to discount it as a gin and to put it into the novelty drink category.
To complete the list of ingredients, there is to be found grapefruit zest, lemon, violets, gorse, lime zest, broom, and redcurrant buds.
The bottle is almost rectangular in shape with a neck leading up to a coppery-coloured screwcap. The witch astride her broomstick is embossed in a coppery colour at the front of the bottle. The use of green for the verbiage on the reverse of the bottle renders it almost illegible, at least when the bottle is full and when you need the information most. At least the rubric on the neck is easy to read and promises that “Sauvignon Blanc grapes and selected botanicals give Sorgin unique complexity and character.”
Despite there being so much wrong with this product on so many levels, it was a very pleasant drink. Removing the cap released an aroma where citrus, grape and juniper fought for prominence. None of them overpowered the others and hinted that the promise of a complex drink may be fulfilled. It was smooth to the taste with a pleasing blend of fruit, grape and more floral tones. The violet and juniper seemed to compliment each other and there was a long, lingering aftertaste.
Whether a wine drinker or a hardened gin drinker would be won over by its charms is difficult to tell. At 43% ABV and competitively priced, as Aldi gins are, it is worth a look at, one to bring out as a conversation piece to kick an evening’s drinking off. But to market it as a gin is a bit of a stretch and confirms the need for some long-overdue policing of what can be so described. I’m sure that the days of hybrids will be numbered but it is at least more pleasant to drink than some of the outlandish flavoured gins that continue to spring up.