Beyond Wine: Grace Vineyard to Launch Its First Gins

One of the China’s top wineries is getting into the spirt, literally. Shanxi-based Grace Vineyard, which has ranked among the country’s leaders in blending quality wine and good value for more than two decades, is on the verge of launching a series of gins.

Grace CEO Judy Chan posted a video this month of the team doing an outdoor photo shoot of a bottle and wrote, “Looking forward to sharing our gin with you.”

The gin in the photo above is called ‘Twilight’, with a blend of botanicals unique to Grace. Word is there are a handful of gins in the works, including ones inspired by passionfruit and one by jasmine tea.

The gins are made in Fujian province, where Grace bought a distillery with the aim of making whisky, but that has the capacity for other spirits, too.

The spirits project got an extra push in late 2020 when Grace announced it would ease development on its Ningxia operation and use funds to speed up progress on gin and whiskey. That decision worked well given the Ningxia winery already had enough scale to be unaffected.

Grace also barreled its first whisky this year, as I posted in May, which was the culmination of some five years of work.

Chan wrote about adding the new whisky and gin production line in her annual report for 2019, adding that it would boost Grace’s product range and help open a new market, Fujian, although she also noted that the times were difficult given the COVID crisis.

Chief winemaker Lee Yeanyean has seen his job description expanding with these new projects while he still continues to oversee the Shanxi and Ningxia wine operations. He told me learning about whisky has been an eye-opener.

“Winemaking is more about terroir while whisky is more about controlling processes,” he told me. “For distilling, controlling for factors such as malt, wort clarity, temperature and so on can be done much quicker.”

In the end, the gin and whisky will give Grace a greater footprint in the alcohol market, and also spread risk at a time when China’s wine sector is undergoing major stress.

And it doesn’t mean Grace has lost focus on wine, either. The company has been steadily introducing new products for two decades, from a range of sparkling wines to grape varieties like Aglianico and Marselan to a new multi-vintage Chairman’s Reserve red blend. That continues today, with vineyard experiments on varieties such as Sangiovese, Saperavi and Tempranillo.

More on those gins soon.

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