CNN.com 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."
Pages to are hidden for
"CNN"Please download to view full document