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Jean-Sébastien Robicquet – G’Vine

Written by Gin Foundry

Many will have seen and even tasted the G’vine Gin duo over the years. With their seductively silky Grape base and progressive flavours, they have set the gin world alight since 2007. 10 years old both continue to grow in both volume and stature around the globe. We thought we’d get in touch with Jean-Sébastien Robicquet to catch up, as they celebrate a decade on the shelf…

Gin Foundry: Going back to the start, you were amongst the first to use grapes as your spirit base. It’s such an expensive way of producing spirit that now – even in the midst of this current Gin renaissance – yours is still a relatively rare way of doing things. Why did you opt for a grape base? 

J-S Robiquet: You are absolutely right, it is more expensive and more complex to use grapes as the base than to use grain but being French, born and raised in the vineyards it came to me as an obvious choice.

Have you even been tempted to head down a grain path?

No I have not been tempted to head down the grain path for many reasons (emotional, cultural, technical, taste…) The grain base has been used extensively and if you want to create a new spirits you absolutely need to bring something really new, authentic and coherent to the consumers. Luxury comes also from the ingredient used and I grapes are for me true luxury, with a real impact on the taste… would you prefer to chew grapes or wheat?  You are right we are only a few using grapes but G’Vine is the original French and grape base gin and as such is a legacy of Maison Villevert and will be for a long time.

G’vine remains very unusual as a gin in terms its flavour profile, but especially when it first came out. Was the intention always to revolutionise and to push the boundaries at the time, or did it just evolve into that?

G’Vine is traditionally unconventional, it means that while respecting our traditions, culture and art de vivre it revolutionised the spirits world. When you are an entrepreneur with a vision you cannot follow the stream, you have to be innovative but also true to your roots. When we created G’Vine a decade ago, when gin was not in fashion and we are proud to have had this vision but also to have marked the history of gin.

But you know going back in spirits history before the argument between Louis XIV and William of Orange grape based spirits were the best base even for gin, I can only refer to the 1495 recipe we recreated …

A can of worms of another time perhaps… A lot has changed in the drinks industry since you first launched G’Vine in 2007 (a lot has remained the same too). What’s the biggest change that you have seen happen to the gin category over the past years?

The biggest change for me is that 10 years ago we were only a few with a clear pre-apprehension or strong vision, today craft is flourishing everywhere and it is extremely energizing. Innovation comes from constraints and challenges, when you consider all our creations since 2001, I am extremely proud to have been, with people making the group Maison Villevert, one of the stimulus of the spirits industry and the gin category especially.

How do you feel G’vine has faired in that time in comparison to other brands?

G’Vine is the original French gin, G’Vine is the iconic gin made from grapes. Often imitated never equalled… so far… Starting from scratch and being what it is now is an achievement I feel very proud of!

When it comes to G’vine Gins, what’s been the biggest highlight for you personally?

There are a number of technical answers to this question (managing the distillations of grapes or of vine flowers, managing the infusions of juniper …) but in fact the biggest highlight is when consumers tell me, we had bad souvenirs of gin, we did not want to have gin, but we tasted G’Vine and it reconciled us with the category… as I always say, tasting it is adopting it!

Another rarity is that you haven’t really ventured down the variation path. You have Floraison and Nouaison and then no more. No Old Tom, no Navy Strength, no Sloe… Have you ever been tempted to play with other styles and seasons under the G’Vine brand?

 We did actually and have a lot of variations in our drawers, yet I do not want to copy and there is always a reason for doing things. Infusions could exist but it cannot be sloe for example, there is no cultural or ethical rational for that… something else …why not, but today we have enough to do and enough people to educate and I do not want to crowed shelves with non legitimate offers… Old Tom or Navy strength are not our history!

Do you think that France will ever properly wake up to the Gin renaissance and embrace it as much as the UK, Spain and Belgium have since 2012?

It is happening now,  I can feel the vibes because we have integrated our distribution in France Spain and Portugal with our Renaissance Spirits company. France market is peculiar due to the supermarket power… but alternative routes are being deployed and interaction with customers happens… give another few years

And for you specifically as you are passing the 10 year milestone for the brand… what does the next decade look like for G’Vine?

At only 10 years old, G’Vine is a teenager and we are still learning, and the future is bright!

We look forward to seeing it progress!