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                   Growing conditions in the south-west of France are perfect for making sweet wines, and also vodka.

           French grapes have a shot at vodka
By CNN's Monita Rajpal
Posted 11:32 a.m. EST, November 23, 2006

GAILLAC, France (CNN) -- In the Gaillac region in south-west France, grapes have been
growing on Mauzac Blanc vines for more than 1,000 years since they were planted by the
Romans.

The mountainous terrain, clay and limestone are responsible for producing high-quality grapes that
are picked late in the harvest and make sweet wines with floral and citrus flavors.

Grapes picked a little earlier -- before the last sunny days of the season -- go on to become high-end
vodka.

The company making the vodka is Ciroc and its master distiller, Jean-Sebastien Robicquet, says
producing vodka from grapes is a natural extension of what his family has been during for since
1700, when they first began growing grapes in the region.

Ciroc uses Mauzac Blanc essence to ensure the quality of the vodka remains high even if the region
experiences a less than favorable season.

The essence is extracted from the grapes in a cold maceration process, releasing the vibrant and
crisp qualities held within the grapes' skin.

"It's a concentrate of citrus, with a hint of apple, which gives Ciroc its characteristic flavor. The fact
that this is based on grapes, means it is smoother than any other vodkas, and has a lot of
character," Robicquet says.

This is just the start of the vodka-making process.
Heading to nearby Cognac region, Ugni Blanc grape is added and distillation occurs.

"Wine-making and distilling is trying to express what Mother Nature gives us to make wine, and also
to distil because when you distil you are concentrating everything," Robicquet explains.

"It's almost like if you were making a concentrated perfume -- but it's obviously a spirit -- and it's
trying to extract the essence of a given grapes."

Whether it's Ugni Blanc from the Cognac region or Mauzac Blanc from the Gaillac region, each
brings something to the story of helping create the syrup, Robicquet says.

"The Ugni Blanc is like a white canvas, because it's neutral. When you put a drop of another grape, it
makes a print on the canvas."

The fine, white grapes are born out of a compelling mix of altitude, latitude and attitude, according to
Robicquet.

"Altitude is because of the area where it is grown because it's a high area for wine growing, over 600
meters.

"Attitude is all about being discerning, having a discerning test, there is so much in this product to
create such a quality product and it's so versatile and in line with the growing demand in the world
for new generation drinks, new cocktails. This is the attitude of being discerning.

"And latitude is because of the area. It's almost in the middle of the world, in Cognac, if you go to
Gaillac, they'll tell you it is the center of the world."

								
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