Whoever said there is nothing to do in Port Elizabeth was sorely mistaken (and I have to admit – I used to think this too). And now that Life is Grape is up and running, there’s plenty for wine and gin lovers to do at this charming venue. This quirky wine and gift shop – situated at 82 Main Road in Walmer – hosts regular wine tastings, and now they’ve added gin tastings to their menu too. My mom, her friends and I had the opportunity to attend one these tastings, and it was a wonderful experience!
When we arrived, we each received a non-alcoholic welcome drink, and were welcomed to the sight of a beautifully set table, where a variety of garnishes had been set out for us to try with our gin. Gooseberries, strawberries, dried pineapple, grapefruit and raspberries were among the bowls of colourful fruits placed in the centre of the table. Already I was excited to see what gin and garnish combinations we were going to try!
Before the gin tasting began, we were introduced to Liesl from Air-Dried Veg & Fruit SA, who had brought some dried fruit garnishes with her for us to try. Liesl explained that dried fruit is fast becoming a popular garnish for gin. This is because, unlike fresh fruit which adds moisture and dilutes the flavour of gin, dried fruit adds flavour to gin. The next time you’re looking for garnishes to add to your gin, keep this fascinating fact in mind!
Next, we were introduced to Ronelle Wright from Le Barrique – a wine and spirits advisor and our gin expert for the evening. Our tasting started off with a tonic tasting, where we sampled the tonic of the evening – Barker and Quinn. Ronelle explained that unlike most of the tonics we drink in South Africa, Barker and Quinn is free of artificial sweeteners and contains real quinine – a key ingredient in tonic water. We tried the Barker and Quinn Finest Indian Tonic Water and the Light at Heart Tonic water. The former is a sweet tonic water, while the latter is more bitter in taste. This was the first time I’ve tried this brand of tonic water, and I look forward to buying a few bottles to try with my gin at home.
Finally, it was time to start tasting the gin! We started with the Six Dogs Karoo Gin and the Wilderer Fynbos Gin. Ronelle instructed us to first take a sip of the Six Dogs Karoo Gin before we added tonic water, so that we could get a good taste of the gin. I would describe this gin as strong yet refreshing. We then added our tonic water (I tried this gin with the Barker and Quinn Light at Heart tonic water), and dried pineapple and crushed mint. We then tried the Wilderer Fynbos Gin. I had mine with the Finest Indian Tonic Water, and we added dried orange and lime to our mixture. Of the two, I think I enjoyed the Six Dogs Karoo Gin the most. It has a simple, distinct aroma, and I loved the flavour the dried pineapple and crushed mint gave the drink.
Next, we tried the Vale Victoria’s Strawberry Gin and the Six Dogs Blue Gin. I would describe the Vale Victoria’s Strawberry Gin – a cucumber infused craft gin – as a refreshing and easy-drinking gin. We added strawberries to the strawberry gin, and I had this gin with the Light at Heart Tonic Water. We then tried the Six Dogs Blue Gin. This gin was the winner of the evening for me! It has a strong aroma, and sort of smells like a sweet perfume! The blue colour of the gin is beautiful too, and when you add tonic water to the gin, the colour turns pink! We added raspberries and gooseberries to this gin.
The last gin we tasted was the Grey Hawk Gin. This is not a gin I’m familiar with, so I was keen to try something new and unknown. This gin is rather strong, and after I had a taste of it sans tonic water, I didn’t really think that I was going to like it. But after adding tonic water, grapefruit and dried orange, I completely changed my mind. Ronelle suggested that this gin smells and tastes like Christmas cake, and it really does taste like the fruity cake, with hints of sweet floral and spice.
After the tasting, the Life is Grape staff brought out platters of crackers, tortilla chips and meatballs for us to share – something we were all grateful for after the quantity of gin we had consumed!
All in all, the gin tasting at Life is Grape was an informative and fun experience! Thank you to Life is Grape, Ronelle Wright and Lisel for a lovely evening!
For more information about Le Barrique, follow them on Facebook.