How the French are falling in love with gin

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How the French are falling in love with gin
The French 'Citadelle Gin' during a competition in New York City in October 2023 (Photo by ROB KIM / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

A French gin has been crowned 'world's best', underlining the thriving gin scene in France, with many gins made from discarded grape skins from vineyards.


You might think of France as the country of wine and Champagne - with Cognac as the preferred national spirit - but in recent years, gin has been gaining ground.

"There has definitely been an explosion on the gin front", François Granier, Wine & Spirits Trade Adviser at Business France told luxury lifestyle magazine 'Club Oenologique'.

For the first time in 2022, the spirit made it to the 'Top Five' favourite spirits of French people, according to an Ipsos poll, and in 2021, French daily Le Parisien crowned the 'gin and tonic' the go-to party drink for young people. 

Now French distillery owner Mickaël Blondelle has won a gold medal in the 2023 international 'London Gin of the Year' competition for his Distillerie de Reims 'contemporary gin'.

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As of 2022, France had between 180 to 200 gin brands, according to the lifestyle Club Oenologique, with many of them using grape skins discarded from the winemaking process.

While they appeal to environmental goals of sustainability, grape-based gins are not a new idea - the concept may go all the way back to the 1400s, according to Wine Enthusiast.

Modern gin finds its homeland in Flanders and the Netherlands, despite its popularity in the UK. According to the wine magazine, there is evidence "from the Netherlands [showing] that juniper spirits, ie the ancestors of today’s gin, were often made with grapes."

Even celebrities like Brad Pitt and Emma Watson are looking to get in on France's shift toward gin. Pitt, who already owns a winery in the Var département, recently announced plans to create a gin brand: "The Gardener Gin", describing it as "celebrating the lushness and light of the French Riviera with a fresh citrus taste". 

Harry Potter actress Emma Watson and her brother Alex have also gotten into the spirits business, launching the 'Renais Gin', made from "upcycled French pressed wine grape skins and lees" from vineyards in Chablis and Burgundy and distilled in the UK.

In Paris, gin tasting centres, like 'Botanical Paris' are cropping up, offering visitors an opportunity to experience the unique aromas and spices found in French gin

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Bmondelle's distillery is located a short distance from the Reims Cathedral and he works with around 60 spices to create the special flavour of his gin.

"When you create a spirit, it's like creating a perfume", he told Le Parisien, adding that the gold medal was "a nice surprise and a reward for all my work. Taking part in a competition allows you to know if you are up to the task". 


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