Moldovan Wine Tasting

@ Lysses House Hotel, 4th February 2015

My colleague, Daria Kenefeck, has been running wine education classes Moldovan Wine Tastingin the Fareham area for over 20 years. The classes are currently held at Lysses House Hotel and run three times a year, roughly equating to school term times. In 2015 one of Daria’s long-standing class members, Malcolm Swire, visited Moldova to attend a Moldovan Wine festival (which was cancelled!) and visit some wineries. Malcolm offered to make a presentation to the wine class about Moldovan wine if some Moldovan wine could be sourced in the UK. It turns out that finding Moldovan wine in the UK is no easy feat, but Daria found some. Having never tasted Moldovan wine before, I decided to gate crash the class. Malcolm gave a very informative talk, not just about Moldovan wine but about the country in general with a slide presentation followed by a tasting of 5 wines.

Moldovan Wine – A Little Background

Moldova is a land-locked Eastern European country located bordered by Romania to the west and Ukraine to the north, south and west. Moldova has a long viticultural history (there is evidence of grapes being grown in the region in 2800BC) but grape-growing and wine production really began to flourish under the kingdom of Stephen The Great in the 15th Century. It is one of the poorest countries in Europe but has a higher wine production by volume per capita than any other country in the world (in part due to the fact that many people grow grapes and make wine at home for their own consumption). A report by the World Health Organisation in 2011 also found that the Moldovans are the heaviest drinkers in the world, drinking an equivalent of 18 litres of pure alcohol per person per year (global average 6.1 litres, UK 13.4 litres).

Moldova’s relationship relationship with Russia and the former USSR has always been very important if somewhat fractious. The largest export market for Moldovan wine has always been Russia where the traditional, sweeter style of red wines are popular. Mikhail Gorbachev imposed an anti-alcohol campaign in the 1980s which resulted in many of the vineyards in Moldova being grubbed up. After the break up of the Soviet Union and following Moldovan independence in 1991 the wine industry began to re-awaken and modernise. Russia remained the largest customer export customer for Moldovan wine despite the 2006 Russian ban (eventually lifted) on imports Moldovan and Georgian wine. However, the industry has further been damaged by yet another Russian ban on the import of Moldovan wine imposed in September 2013 due to Moldova announcing plans to sign a draft association treaty with the EU. Both bans have caused considerable damage and serve to underline how important it is for Moldova to develop other new export markets outside of their traditional channels.

There are four wine growing regions of Moldova – Balti in the North, Codru in the centre, Purcari in the South-East and Cahul in the South. They are also known as the Northern, Central, South-Eastern and Southern zones. Of these the Southern is the most important. There are some 140 Moldovan wine companies, employing 250,000 people, with 148,000 hectares of vineyard.

There majority of grape varieties grown in Moldova are French varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling et al. There are also plantings of Rkatsiteli and Saperavi, which I have come across in Georgian wines. Domestic grape varieties are estimated to make up only 16% of vines planted. The most important domestic white grape varieties are Feteasca Alba, which is also grown in Romania, and Feteasca Regala (a Feteasca Alba / Furmint Cross). The two most important domestic red grape varieties are Rara Neagra and Feteasca Neagra.

Perhaps Moldova’s main vinous claim to fame are the Milestii Mici underground galleries. According to the Guiness Book of Records it is the largest wine collection in the world with over 2 million bottles of wine. The galleries stretch for 250km with 120km currently use. As well as Milestii Mici, there are several other very large underground cellars in Moldova including the Cricova wine cellars which have galleries stretching for 70kms through which there is even an annual running race, the Cricova Run.

Chateau Purcari – Moldovan Wine Tasting

Moldovan Wine Tasting 2

The wines we tried on the evening were all from Chateau Purcari. Founded in 1827, the iconic Chateau Purcari is arguably the most famous winery and producer of Moldovan wine. It is located on the Dniester River not far from the Black Sea (in the South-Eastern Zone). In 2003 the winery and vineyards were completely renovated, modernised and 250 hectares of vineyards were planted which are now coming to maturity.

Negru de Purcari, a dry red wine from the Purcari region is made by a few wineries including Chateau Purcari (the fifth wine tasted below). It was originally made from Rara Neagra and found great fame in the 18th Century. Nowadays the blend is normally Cabernet Sauvignon, Saperavi and Rara Neagra.

White Wines

Chateau Purcari Pinot Grigio de Purcari 2014 – 100% Pinot Grigio. I thought this was the most commercial of all the Moldovan wines we tried. Typical Pinot Grigio character with lots of floral, citrus and pear-drop aromas on the nose. The palate had a sweet, confectionery character. A bit too sweet for my taste, although labelled as a “Alb Sec” or dry white. The only wine of the evening to have geographical classification, a Vin cu Indicatie Geografica Stefan Voda.

Chateau Purcari, Alb de Purcari 2012 – A blend of 50% Chardonnnay, 45% Pinot Gris and 5% Pinot Blanc. Barrel-fermented and aged in French oak barrels for 6 months with malolactic fermentation. This was an oaky beast. Good, golden straw colour with very oaky, herbaceous nose. I detected sulphur on both the nose and the palate, to the detriment of everything else. Labelled as a “Vin de Calitate Matur“, a quality mature wine, although no-one could find out whar “matur” meant, i.e. did it represent a minium aging period.

Moldovan Wine Tasting

Red Wines

Chateau Purcari Freedom Blend 2011 – another Vin de Calitate Matur Rosu Sec (dry red) bottled to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Moldovan independence. A rather interesting blend of 5% Bastardo, 45% Saperavi and 50% Rara Neagra aged 1 year in French oak. The three grape varieties representing Romania, Georgia and Moldova. I am quite familiar with Bastardo from the Douro and Saperavi from Georgia. I didn’t really detect any Bastardo character (only 5%, after all) and the Saperavi was quite dominant. This wine had a good bright, clear red colour with a fruity, smoky nose developing coffee and vanilla aromas as it breathed in the glass. The palate was not particularly complex but demonstrated rich fruity flavours (plums), a bit more smoky / earthy character and some more coffee character. Soft, fruity and dry.

Chateau Purcari Rara Neagra de Purcari 2014 – a Vin de Calitate Selectat Rose Sec. 100% Rara Neagra, unoaked. This wine had a good garnet red colour. The nose was reminiscent of sweet, jammy red fruit, particularly strawberries. These aromas follow onto the palate which has more sweet, jammy, confit fruit, damson, plums and a touch of spice. Round and fruity with a touch of sweetness on the finish.

Chateau de Purcari, Negru de Purcari 2010 – 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Saperavi and 10% Rara Neagra aged for 3 years (or 18 to 24 months, depending where one looks) in French oak and bottled as a Vin de Calitate Matur Rezerva. Chateau de Purcari Negru de Purcari has a dense red / black colour. The nose was quite intense with aromas of black fruit, blackberry, blackcurrant, hints of spicy black pepper and slight balsamic notes. The palate was full and complex with a firm tannin backbone and structure. There were more blackberry / cassis flavours on the palate and I detected just a hint of stalkiness. A fine wine, with surprising structure that could almost be mistaken for a Bordeaux. Good length and potential for aging.

Other Moldovan wines to look out for are those made by Cricova, Chateau Vartely, Mezalimpe and Et Cetera (Malcolm had high praise for Et Cetera).

1976 Port

Many people are looking for a 1976 Port to give as a 40th birthday or 40th anniversary present in 2016. Unfortunately 1976 was not a good vintage in the Douro and very little 1976 Port was produced. The winter of 1975/76 was the driest winter on record for the Douro and the Summer of 1976 suffered drought conditions. The grapes suffered terribly, the vines were stressed, the result was a very small harvest and the year was not declared as a vintage. There are some years where one will simply not be able to find any vintage Port.

There were very small quantities of 1976 Single Quinta Port produced. A single Quinta Port is made in exactly the same way as Vintage Port, normally from a Port House’s top property or best vineyards in a year not declared as a vintage. For example, both Graham Quinta dos Malvedos and Fonseca Guimaraens were produced in 1976, but there is precious little of these 40 year old Single Quinta Ports still available and they are very hard to find.

All is not lost though! If you are frantically looking for a 1976 Port, there are still some 1976 Colheita Ports available. A Colheita Port is a Tawny Port from a single vintage that has to be aged for at least 7 years in barrel. These have quite different characteristics from a vintage Port but are superb wines.

We currently have Krohn 1976 Colheita Port, the current batch was bottled in 2015, which has been quietly aging away in barrel for 40 years. This is a gently oxidative process as the Port interacts with both the air and the barrel. This is what helps to produce the nutty, sweet, caramel and dried fruit characters that tawny Ports are famous for.

Krohn 1976 Colheita Port available here.

Krohn Colheita 1976 Port

Krohn 1976 Colheita Port is an elegant Tawny Port from a very hot, dry and small vintage. It has a good mahogany colour. The nose is complex with aromas of candied fruit peels, cherry, red fruit and orange notes combined with nutty, oaky notes. The palate it soft, smooth and silky. There are more complex, nutty characteristics and caramel / mocha flavours. It has an extremely long, sweet finish, balanced by superb acidity. An excellent example of a mature, tawny, 1976 Port. Presented in a wooden gift box.

As an alternative to 1976 Port, there one will also find 40 year old Tawny Port such as the Grahams 40 Year Old Tawny. Please note a 40 year old Tawny Port is a blend of older and younger Tawny Ports with an average age of 40 years old, not from a single vintage. For a brandy drinker, there is also Baron de Lustrac 1976 Vintage Armagnac and Baron de Sigognac 1976 Vintage Armagnac.

What is a Creme Liqueur?

One of the things questions I regularly get asked is ‘what is the difference between Creme Liqueur and a Liqueur?’. Some people get confused thinking that a Creme Liqueur is a Cream Liqueur like Baileys Irish Cream. It isn’t. Not that surprising since the word creme (crème to give it it’s is proper French accent) is the French word for cream, the dairy product. So what are Creme de Fruits, Creme de Noix or Creme Liqueurs.

The first thing to do is to define what a liqueur is. European Law from 1989 states that a liqueur must have a minimum of 15% alcohol and a minimum of 100g of sugar per litre.

Briottet Creme de Cacao Blanc Liqueur
Briottet Creme de Cacao Blanc Liqueur

A liqueur is essentially made made from three components.

  1. A distilled spirit – this could be a neutral grain, fruit, grape or molasses spirit. However, some of the world’s most famous liqueurs use finished spirits such as whisky, cognac, brandy or rum as their base spirit.
  2. A sweetener – generally this can be sugar or a sugar syrup (perhaps fructose or fruit sugar syrup) . Other sweeteners can include honey or sweet wine.
  3. Some sort of flavouring – liqueurs can be flavoured with just about anything. Common flavourings are fruits, nuts, herbs, flowers, roots, bark, beans, cream and spices. The flavouring of a liqueur can be simple, such as just simply blackcurrant fruit for a Creme de Cassis, or the flavourings could be a long list (usually a closely guarded secret) of herbs, flowers, spices etc. For example, Green Chartreuse has 130 ingredients.

A liqueur always has sugar added, which distinguishes it from flavoured spirits such as flavoured vodka, and they are usually bottled at an alcoholic strength of anywhere from 15% (the minimum) to 55% ABV.

To dispel any confusion over a Creme versus a Cream Liqueur, a Cream Liqueur is simply alcohol and sugar flavoured with dairy cream (and other flavourings). Without doubt, Baileys Irish Cream is the most famous of the Cream Liqueurs but there are many others including Amarula from South Africa, all sorts of chocolate and coffee flavoured cream liqueurs, and those that use rum, whisky, tequila et al. for their spirit base.

What is a Creme Liqueur?

Briottet Creme de Cassis de Dijon
Briottet Creme de Cassis de Dijon

A Creme Liqueur has a more specific definition. It is liqueur made with alcohol that is sweetened and then flavoured.

However, a Creme Liqueur must contain at least 250g of sugar per litre, compared to a “normal” liqueur (100g/L) as above. Creme Liqueurs are normally made from fruit or nuts and are therefore known as Creme de Fruits or Creme de Noix.

There are exceptions of course. For example, Creme de Cassis de Dijon is more regulated, limited geographically and must have minimum of 400g of sugar per litre compared to standard Creme de Cassis. Creme de Cassis de Dijon must also contain at least 25% of the Noir de Bourgogne blackcurrant variety.

What does this mean?

Due to the higher sugar concentration Creme Liqueurs tend to be more viscous, more syrupy, heavier and (obviously) sweeter than standard liqueurs. In practice this perhaps means that when you are using them in cocktails or other recipes you may not have to use as much of a Creme Liqueur compared to a normal liqueur. I also recommend using a much smaller amount of the Briottet Creme de Fruit liqueurs when adding them to white or sparkling wines for example in a Kir or Kir Royale.

Glenmorangie Milsean

Glenmorangie Milsean Highland Single Malt Whisky is the latest Glenmorangie Private Edition. It is the creation of Dr Bill Lumsden, Glenmorangie’s Director of Whisky Creation and Distilling, and is inspired by the old jars of sweets and multi-coloured confectionery of traditional sweet shops, that are now such a rare sight on our high streets.

In keeping with 4 out of the last 6 Glenmorangie Private Editions, Glenmorangie Milsean, the seventh Private Edition release, is distinctive due to is unusual wine cask finish. The first Private Edition was released in 2010, and just to recap, the 6 releases have been,

Glenmorangie Sonnalta – extra matured in ex- Pedro Ximenez, dessert Sherry casks.

Glenmorangie Finealta – a recreation of a Glenmorangie from the early 1900s, aged in Oloroso Sherry Casks with a whisper of peat.

Glenmorangie Artein – matured in rare Super Tuscan red wine casks.

Glenmorangie Ealanta – Not a special wine cask finish but matured in virgin oak casks from the Mark Twain Forest.

Glenmorangie Companta – matured in combination of Grand Cru Burgundy casks from the Clos du Tart vineyard and some casks that had previously held a red dessert wine from the Rhone.

Glenmorangie Tusail – the second release not based on wine casks but an artisanal single, hand-crafted using floor-malted Maris Otter barley, a rare type of barley.

Glenmorangie Milsean available to purchase here.

Glenmorangie Milsean, 2016 Private Edition

Glenmorangie Milsean Bottle

Initially the whisky for the Glenmorangie Milsean undergoes a typical maturation in Bourbon casks but then it extra-matured in specially selected ex-wine casks. In this case the casks are ex-red wine casks sourced from the Douro wine-growing region of Portugal. Although the Douro is most famous for its historic sweet Port wines, there is a new wave producers making fantastic red wines. Of course, where the casks come from is a secret, but the best Douro red wines are usually a “field blend” of grapes which include varieties such as Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Tinta Amarela, Sousao and others. The wines that are produced tend to big and rich, yet elegant, with plenty of fruit and spicy character. So expect dark fruit character and spicy flavours.

However, not content with just using the casks as they are, the casks destined for the Glenmorangie Milsean are shipped to Scotland where there are re-toasted with live flame to enhance the sweeter notes of Glenmorangie. The result is a sumptuous whisky characterised by the sweetness and piquancy of the toasted casks combined with the rich, fruity flavours of the wood finish.

According to Dr Bill Lumsden, “A glass of Glenmorangie Milsean transports me straight to an old-fashioned sweet shop with its sweet and spicy bouquet, with hints of sugar cane, ripe fruits and fudge. Extra-maturing Glenmorangie in heavily toasted red wine casks for the first time, has allowed us to create a whisky recalling a bygone era. I hope its deep tastes of cherries, angelica, candied orange peel and unusual intensity of caramelised fruits, will surprise and delight whisky aficionados and malt connoisseurs.”

And why Glenmorangie Milsean? Milsean is the Scots Gaelic for “sweet things”, which gived a big clue to the style. It is pronounced meel-shawn. Only 5000 cases produced.

Glenmorangie Milsean Tasting Notes from the Glenmorangie website,

Copper beech.

At full strength, perfumed, sweet and spicy with hints of sugar cane, ripe fruits, sherbert lemons and fudge.
With water, more candy sweetness (dolly mixtures, sugared plums and sweet candy), with the over-riding fragrance of sweet, buttery coconut. Sweet lemon and limes, with hints of exotic ripe melons.

A thick buttery, oily texture with a hint of tingling spices and a hint of chilli giving way to a sweet, luscious candy-like flavour followed by a mix of tart plummy fruit, candied orange peel, cherries, angelica and then more fruits such as peaches, nectarines, plums and melons.

Long and spicy, but always with a sweetness in the background, with flavours such as ginger, brown sugar, sweet tobacco and cake mix.

46% ABV
Non chill-filtered.


1976 Vintage Armagnac

Are you looking for a 40th Birthday Present or 40th Anniversary present in 2016? A 1976 Vintage Armagnac will be 40 years old in 2016 and will make a fantastic 40th birthday present or anniversary gift.

At Fareham Wine Cellar we sell Armagnac from two producers who specialise in the production, sourcing and bottling of single vintage Armagnac – Baron de Lustrac and Baron de Sigognac.

The depth of colour and complexity of flavour of vintage Armagnac increase all the time the spirit is aged in cask, the colour can range from pale straw to rich amber. As Armagnac ages it becomes darker in colour and softer, smoother and more elegant on the palate whilst aromas and flavours of prunes, violets, fig, honey, butterscotch and rancio develop. Both Baron de Lustrac and Baron de Sigognac vintage Armagnacs are bottled exclusively to order which allows the spirit to carry on maturing until the last moment.

Baron de Lustrac 1976 Vintage Armagnac

Baron de Lustrac specialise in the sourcing and bottling of old vintage Armagnacs. Their brandies are presented in an old-fashioned Armagnac bottle and wooden box, these rare vintage Armagnacs are available in strictly limited quantities. Each label is clearly inscribed with the year of distillation.  Baron de Lustrac 1976 Vintage Armagnac is presented in a wooden gift box with a hinged lid.

Baron de Lustrac 1976 Vintage Armagnac 3

Buy Baron de Lustrac 1976 Vintage Armagnac here.

Baron de Sigognac 1976 Vintage Armagnac

As well as Baron de Lustrac we also supply a fantastic range of vintage Armagnacs from another old, vintage Armagnac specialist called Baron de Sigognac. The current owners, the Guasch family have owned the Chateau at Bordeneuve since 1974 and today are one of the largest courtier and negociant operations in the region.

Baron de Sigognac 1976 Vintage Armagnac 4

Baron de Sigognac 1976 Vintage Armagnac has a translucent yellow golden amber colour. It has an elegant and perfumed nose with the characteristic Armagnac notes of floral and prune, with some fine vanilla flavours. The palate offers a light and smooth taste of vanilla with stewed fruits, leading to exotic fruit flavours that culminate in a soft and delicious spicy finish.

Buy Baron de Sigognac 1976 Vintage Armagnac here.

As an alternative, or for a Port drinker,  why not consider Grahams 40 Year Old Tawny Port?

Opening Old Vintage Port

We sell a lot of vintage Port, particularly around Christmastime, and I always like to give customers a few hints and tips about decanting and opening old Vintage Port. This is easy enough if one is face-to-face with a customer in the shop but slightly more difficult if the customer has placed the order online.

Just after Christmas I had the email (below) from a customer who bought a bottle Ramos Pinto 1983 Vintage Port from us online and struggled with the fragile and crumbly Port cork. I thought it would be good to share the email (names withheld) and my response as this is not the first time I have had a similar conversation with customers. I hope this helps anyone else that has similar problems opening old Vintage Port and removing the fragile corks.

Email received,

“…….. however when we came to open the port it didn’t go very well.  After taking off the foil seal the cork appeared fine but as soon as we tried to extract it it disintegrated and contaminated the port. As you can imagine this was very disappointing and we had to strain the contents to get rid of the cork that had crumbled into the port.

I have saved the cork and took photos as we attempted to opened the bottle. I wonder if you would be able to explain to me why this happened and what we should or shouldn’t have done.  This was our first bottle of port at this sort of price and were totally unprepared for what happened.”

Unfortunately, older Vintage Port corks, which are normally longer and higher quality than standard corks, can become very friable and difficult to remove from the bottle and if one is expecting the cork to pop out like your normal weekend bottle of wine it can be a bit of a surprise.

Opening Old Vintage Port can be a tricky job!

Here is my response,

“……. I am sorry to hear about the problems that you had opening your bottle of Port but this is pretty much normal condition for a cork in a bottle of vintage Port of this age. Over time, and this cork has been in the bottle 30 year plus, they do become very soft and fragile, and this happens when the Port has been stored correctly on its side. The particular bottle you purchased from us came directly from the Port house in the last year, so it should have been aged in optimum conditions. The wine would not have been contaminated, the Port has been on contact with the the cork since bottling after all.

All one can really do is to be prepared for this when opening bottles of this age. This means a very good corkscrew. Vintage Port corks are very good quality and longer than average corks as they do have to do their job for many years. Modern corkscrews are not very good for this. The worse type are the lever type corkscrews, ones that do not have a good, wide open “worm” (the spiral metal bit) or where the worm is not long enough to get to (or through) the bottom of the cork. I still find the best type of corkscrew is a high quality, 2 step, waiters friend.

However, because opening old vintage Port is a tricky, I also have a Butler’s Thief, whose prongs slide down the outside of the cork for opening really old, fragile bottles of Port. Some people use Port tongs to remove the neck of the bottle, but this might be a bit too much bother for most.

Opening Old Vintage Port - A Butlers Thief
Opening Old Vintage Port – A Butlers Thief

There are many times that I have opened a vintage Port when the cork has disintegrated, just like yours. On occasion if I haven’t been able to get all the cork out I have simply pushed it in. Of course, if you do this, you will need to remove and cork bits. I use a simple decanting funnel which has a double mesh filter. This removes all the cork bits that might be left. Many customers of mine use muslin or coffee filters (unbleached) and even fine denier tights!

I hope you enjoyed the Port when you had strained it. I have tried this one a few times over the years and it has always been excellent.

I hope this gives you a few ideas and I hope you aren’t put off trying an older vintage Port again!”

In fact, I had another email from the customer, and, in the end, they removed the cork as best they could and filtered the Port through some muslin, which is pretty much the way I do it if I have a very troublesome cork, as I mentioned in my repsonse. Its just common sense really. I have had to do this on a number of  occasions! The important thing is not to be too precious. Decant the Port as best you can to leave the sediment behind and if one needs to filter the Port though something to remove any small bits of cork, so be it. It is not an exact science!

Does anyone else have any handy hints and tips for opening old Vintage Port bottles? Has anyone tried filtering Port through tights? What denier did you use? I once saw someone filter some cork bits out of some Cognac through a freshly removed sock!

To find out more about how and why to decant Port please refer to this blog post, A Guide To Decanting Port.

Gilbert White Gin

What do you get if you combine Gilbert White’s gardens and Winchester Distillery? Gilbert White Gin, of course.

Many of you will be familiar with the name Gilbert White. White was a pioneering naturalist and ornithologist parson who was born in Selborne, Hampshire where the White family house remains to this day. The house is known as The Wakes and houses the Gilbert White museum as well as the Oates collection (an Antarctic exhibition dedicated to Captain Oates, who accompanied Captain Scott to the South Pole in 1912).

You might also be familiar with Winchester Distillery (founded in 2014) who produce the fantastic Twisted Nose Gin, Wasabi Vodka and Vermouth, all of which are made using locally sourced ingredients and botanicals where possible.

Gilbert White Gin

Gilbert White Gin

Gilbert White was an experimental, keen and enthusiastic gardener, and at The Wakes in Selborne there are 30 acres of ancient parkland and carefully restored gardens which have been looked after by head gardener David Standing since 1979. Perhaps the idea of producing a gin from the gardens is not so unusual and White himself apparently used to make a wide variety of brews and wines made with plants from the gardens.

All the botanicals for the Gilbert White Gin (with the exception of he juniper) are hand-picked by David and include the following herbs and fruits,

Swan’s Egg Pear
Golden Sage
Winter Savory
Pineapple Mint
Rose Hip

Buy Gilbert White Gin at Fareham Wine Cellar.

Gilbert White Gin is distilled at Winchester Distillery by founder Paul Bowler. All of their gins are small batch distilled in traditional copper alquitar pot stills. Alquitar pot stills are renowned for producing a superior, purer spirit due to a slight longer distillation process and unusual design.

A sophisticated, complex and herbaceous gin, good enough to drink neat. It also makes a great gin and tonic. Use your favourite tonic water and garnish with a slice of pear or mint to complement the botanicals.

Please don’t forget to check out our other Hampshire Gins, Twisted Nose Gin and Silverback Gin.

Silverback Gin

A fantastic new gin from Hampshire. Silverback Gin is a “Mountain Strength Gin” made by the Gorilla Spirits Co. located in Four Marks near Alton in Hampshire. The distillery is situated at the highest point in Hampshire. The owner and founder is Andy Daniels who has spent four years building up to the first release of Silverback Gin in December 2015. He is the now the proud owner of a state of the art distillery and the gin is flowing!

Silverback gin is a small batch gin made using a pure wheat base spirit as the clean background to allow the expression of the carefully chosen botanicals to come to the fore. The gin is distilled in Gorilla Spirits’ copper still which is nicknamed Mugwaneza (which means “she who is content” in Kinrwandan).

Silverback Gin is now available at Fareham Wine Cellar.

Silverback Gin

Silverback Gin Bottle

The botanicals in Silverback Gin include,

Sweet Orange
Calamus Root
Acacia Blossom

Of course, gin must contain juniper as a botanical by law and coriander, angelica and sweet orange are fairly common gin botanicals. The next three are a little more unusual. Calamus Root is also known as sweet flag, myrtle grass, sweet cinnamon, pine root and the rhizomes have traditionally been used in medicines, fragrance and bitters. The powdered rhizome has also been used as a subsitute for ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. It adds warmth and spiciness to the gin. Acacia Blossom adds brings a sweet, honeyed note whilst lemongrass gives a clean, citrus-y finish. It is a very modern style of gin with the botanicals at the fore and the juniper in the background. Technically this is a London Dry Gin, i.e. the spirit base is redistilled once in the presence of the botanicals with no sweetening added, but is bottled at sold as Mountain Strength Gin at 46% ABV.

A superb gin that can be drunk neat or over ice, it also makes a fantastic gin and tonic. Gorilla Spirits recommend Peter Stanton Drinks No 9 Cardamon Tonic Water to make the ultimate G’n’T. The heady cardamon fragrance and green freshness of the tonic water match perfectly with Silverback Gin. Garnish with an inch long strip of orange to complement the sweet orange citrus botanical in the gin.

For every bottle of gin sold in the UK, depending on the strength, approximately  £15 goes straight to the HMRC, frightening isn’t it? Gorilla Spirits also add GAT (Gorilla Added Tax) and for every bottle of Silverback Gin sold £1 goes directly to The Gorilla Foundation who are working to save the last remaining gorillas from extinction.

1966 Vintage Armagnac

What better what better way to celebrate a 50th Anniversary or 50th Birthday in 2016 than with a bottle of 1966 Vintage Armagnac?

Fareham Wine Cellar supplies 1966 vintage Armagnac from two Armagnac houses specialise in the production and supply of rare, old, vintage Armagnacs – Baron de Lustrac and Baron de Sigognac. Both have stocks going back to the early 1900s – have a look here for a full list of available vintages, maybe there is one for another anniversary or birthday celebration.

Compared to wine, good luck finding something drinkable (perhaps a Port would do the trick), or whisky from 1966 (a small fortune), vintage Armagnac will be guaranteed to be still drinkable and won’t put too much of a dent in one’s pocket. Read more about the advantages of Vintage Armagnac as a gift at my post about 1965 Vintage Armagnac.

Baron de Lustrac 1966 Vintage Armagnac

Buy Baron de Lustrac 1966 Vintage Armagnac here.

Baron de Lustrac 1966 Vintage Armagnac

Baron de Lustrac Armagnac is presented in an old-fashioned Armagnac bottle and wooden box. These fine and rare vintage Armagnacs are only available in strictly limited quantities. Each label is inscribed with the year of distillation, the name of the Domain of production, the bottle number (they are usually single cask bottlings) and, where relevant, the grape variety.

Baron de Sigognac 1966 Vintage Armagnac

Buy Baron de Sigognac 1966 Vintage Armagnac here.

Baron de Sigognac 1966 Vintage Armagnac Bottle

If you look on the Baron de Sigognac Vintage Armagnac chart, you can see that Sigognac categorise the 1966 as fine, light, easy to drink and is dominated by floral notes with leather and cigar characteristics.

The Owners of Baron de Sigognac, The Guasch family, have been in Gascony since the 12th century. They have owned the château at Bordeneuve since 1974 and are one of the region’s largest courtier and negociant operations. Today the father-and-son team of Jean-Claude and Thomas look after viticulture, vinification and distillation. They make a fantastic selection of single vintage Armangnac, but they also make some superb blended Armagnac too like the Baron de Sigognac 50 Year Old in Decanter Wooden Case or the Baron de Sigognac XO Platinum Armagnac Decanter Bottle.

Is my vintage 1966 Vintage Armagnac genuine?

Sometimes people buying a 50 year old bottle of Armagnac expect a dusty old bottle of brandy, but vintage Armagnac spends its life quietly aging in oak barrels (sometimes it is transferred to glass demijohns) and is only bottled and labelled when it is ready to be released. So it quite normal  that bottle and label are new. Read more about how Vintage Armagnac is regulated.


Fareham Wine Cellar Christmas and New Year Opening Hours 2015

Farheam Wine Cellar Christmas Opening Hours 2015

All of us at Fareham Wine Cellar wish you a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.  Thank you for your continued support throughout all of 2015 and we look forward to seeing you in 2016.

We will be open at the following times over the Christmas period.


Tuesday 22nd – 10am until 6.30pm

Wednesday 23rd – 10am until 5.00pm

Thursday 24th (Christmas Eve) – 10am until 4.00pm


Friday 25th (Christmas Day) – Closed

Saturday 26th – Closed

Sunday 27th – Closed

Monday 28th (Boxing Day) – Closed


Tuesday 29th 10am until 2pm and 4.30pm until 6.30pm

Wednesday 30th – 10am until 1.30pm

Thursday 31st (New Year’s Eve) – 10am until 4.00pm


Friday 1st January (New Years’s Day) – Closed


Saturday 2nd January – 10am until 6.00pm


And back to normal after that!

Don’t forget to pop in and replenish your stocks in the New Year!

You can check our normal opening hours here.