New shoots

08 February, 2018

During one of the seminars on terroir in Belevedere, Smith-Warner said: “One of the best things from our exploration of terroir is that we’re now being reassured about our original belief in 1993 that there is something distinctive about rye, where it comes from and who it’s grown by that has an impact on our vodka. Terroir is not a notable concept – perhaps it needs a rebrand as it can be misleading.”

William Borrell, founder and owner of Vestal, a potato-based Polish vodka, is another advocate for the presence of terroir. “Vodka is no longer just for shooting and mixing,” he says. “It’s like a dream come true to see people sipping certain vodkas. I want people to be exposed to different styles of vodkas and understand that some can be affected in the same way that wines are by terroir, not just in grain vodkas but potato and other styles.”

But Borrell’s obsession with terroir goes as far as labelling Vestal’s bottles with vintage years. Obviously there are likely to be some wine traditionalists who will challenge the idea, but as vodka expert and International Spirits Challenge judge Ian Wisniewski says, vodka flavours can be explored in the same way as wine, so long as you have a magnifying glass.

Ironically, the definition of vodka in the majority of countries around the world reads along the lines of: “An uncontaminated alcoholic beverage created from grain spirit or potato spirit, resulting in a product without distinctive character, aroma, or taste.” Either these definitions are wildly out of date and need reviewing, or terroir-rich vodkas may have to rebrand for different markets. But that’s an issue for next year.

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