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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Local winery turns smoke-tainted grapes into gin

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. But what about when life gives you smoke-tainted grapes? Well, according to Four Winds Vineyard, you make gin!

Canberra’s wine industry has been handed its fair share of lemons this year, with smoke from the summer’s horror bushfires tainting crops and rendering many a grape unusable, as well as drought and COVID-19.

The team at Murrumbateman-based Four Winds were among those having to do away with the year’s crop. Not wanting to leave tonnes of precious grapes “for the birds”, owner and CEO Sarah Collingwood said she looked into what else they could be used for.

“For us, gin made sense,” she said. She contacted the team at the Canberra Distillery, and the Four Winds Vineyard gin was born – after a few trials, of course!

The first batch is now ready to purchase, with floral, citrus, apple and juniper flavours that pair perfectly with tonic.

“For us, riesling is one of the grapes that we grow really well. It’s really distinctive for the area,” said Sarah.

“We really wanted it to retain some of those riesling characters … through the use of a few different botanicals, we ended up with something that we were really happy with.”

She said while the winemaking process wasn’t suitable for the smoke-tainted grapes – the smoke taste and smell is brought out by the fermentation – the distillation process removed any unwanted characteristics and meant their bumper crop could be used after all.

“The drought was fairly fierce, and we’d got through it and the crop actually looked really good … we were really holding out hope that the grapes wouldn’t be affected by the smoke.”

There is the possibility of more gin, and the promise of more wine on the horizon for Four Winds.

“Hopefully, next year will be a great season and we’ll be able to fill our winery up with wine again,” Sarah said.

The Four Winds Vineyard handmade gin is available for $85 (700ml) at the cellar door, as well as Prohibition Bottle Shop, Kingston; Plonk, Fyshwick and Belconnen; Statesman Hotel, Curtin; Friendly Grocer, Chifley and Spence; and Canberra Wine and Spirit Merchants, City.

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