Strong wind? It must be time for Mistral gin: Richard Esling, February 20
As we pick up the pieces after having been battered by two major storms within the past ten days, spare a thought for those living in the path of the Mistral in the Rhone Valley of south-eastern France.
The Mistral is a cold, dry north wind that blows down the valley towards the Mediterranean Sea and Provence. It can blow continuously for days at an average wind speed of 45 mph and can reach 80 mph or more.
According to locals, the legendary Mistral always lasts for an odd number of days – one, three, five etc and is often at its height in late winter or early spring. A beneficial effect on Provence, is the dispersal of air pollution and the clear air of the region gives great luminosity, so revered by artists over the centuries. It has also given its name to a pink gin, crafted in a 100-year-old distillery in Provence at Forcalquiers.
Riding on the back of the rosé wines of the area, Mistral Gin is a salmon pink, but definitely a cut above many other pink gins, which have also become highly favoured of late. Some 12 botanicals are used, sourced from the land carved by the Mistral wind, giving flavours and aromas of Provence herbs. Thyme, basil, fennel, mint, eucalyptus and pink grapefruit are among the flavour ingredients, creating a thoroughly modern drink from an age-old region.
This gin is hand crafted in small batches, the local herbs evoking the Provence lifestyle wherever you may be, perhaps dreaming of the hot summer sun and blue skies. Presented with a very ornate, botanical label, the gin is distilled from local Provence wines, the spirit subsequently infused with the range of botanicals.
Drunk neat, the aniseed flavours of the fennel are very prominent. When mixed with a good tonic, the thyme, mint, rosemary and fennel show through, with a citrus flourish, added by the pink grapefruit. A 70 cl bottle is available from Majestic at £29.99 or try a 50cl bottle from Tesco at £23. Mistral Gin is also available in cans, ready mixed with Franklin & Sons premium Indian Tonic Water. £2.25 per 25cl can from Tesco.
Richard Esling BSc DipWSET is an experienced wine consultant, agent, writer and educator. An erstwhile wine importer, he runs a wine agency and consultancy company called WineWyse, is founder and principal of the Sussex Wine Academy, chairman of Arundel Wine Society and is an International Wine Judge. Follow him on Twitter @richardwje.
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