This month, we turn our attention to France for one of the world’s only vodkas made from grapes.
CÎROC® Ultra Premium Vodka is one of the only vodkas in existence made entirely from grapes. First conceived in 2001 and launched in February 2003 by Diageo in the USA, CÎROC® Ultra Premium Vodka is produced from the finest French grapes. They are harvested from across the country and distilled five times (the fifth distillation uses a traditional copper pot still method) at the historic Distillerie de Chevanceaux in Cognac. This creates a vodka of extraordinary clarity and with a vibrant citrus taste. The CÎROC name is a combination of two French words: ‘cîme’, meaning ‘summit’, and ‘roche’, meaning ‘rock’.
Unlike grain, grapes do not need heat to produce their fermentable sugars, avoiding ‘burnt caramel’ flavours often seen in in grain-based liquids. Inspired by a heritage of winemaking, CÎROC combines traditional techniques with contemporary processes usually reserved for fine wines. After harvest, a select number of grapes undergo cold processes continuing the fine wine making tradition and heritage of the CÎROC brand, and underpinning the craftsmanship and care taken to create CÎROC Ultra Premium Vodka. The subtle sweetness and crisp, clean finish of CÎROC® Vodka is superb when consumed neat, on-the-rocks, or within a cocktail.
We caught up with Jean-Sébastien Robicquet, Master Distiller of CÎROC® Vodka, to find out more.
LM: Who came up with the idea to produce CÎROC® Vodka?
JR: It was a combination of factors, but I was working as an independent distiller working on a grape-based vodka. Diageo wanted to create the same product, and it went from there.
LM: What are the other unique selling points of CÎROC apart from the grapes?
JR: It’s all about history, behaviour and etiquette. Grapes have been part of our civilisation for the last 2000 years and we have been making cognac and spirits in my family for over five centuries. All this brings a certain savoir-faire, French touch, elegance and luxury that is synonymous with grapes. So to sum it up, the USPs are grapes, smoothness and heritage.
LM: How do you select the grapes?
JR: There are two methods that we use. We take grapes from all over France without a specific selection to distil it to neutral level which creates the white canvas on which to print the colour. To create the colour, I also select white grapes from the south west of France and make a good wine from it. This is then distilled, a concentration of flavours and alcohol.
LM: How long does it take to create one bottle of vodka?
JR: It takes around one year to grow the grapes, two months to make a wine and two weeks to distil it, but all is done within a twelve month period. The vodka is not aged, although it could be as we do it for cognac.
LM: What flavours are available?
JR: Apart from the “Blue Dot”, there is coconut, Amaretto, red berry and peach. It’s very simple to make a very nice cocktail from these.
LM: Which is your biggest market CÎROC® Vodka?
JR: It is undoubtedly the USA because this country has a long-established culture and history of drinking vodka. Europe is also fast becoming a significant market along with India and Brazil.
LM: Who are your typical CÎROC® customers?
JR: They are do’ers rather than followers, people who are effectively setting the trends.
By Simon Wittenberg MIOJ