JWL Issue #065: What is eau de vie?

August 20, 2019

I’ve focused on eau de vie this week: this spirit is one that I’ve had little knowledge of in detail, but the more I’ve unpicked, the more I’ve loved. One particular English distiller has an incredible range making the most of our abundant fruit.

I’m gearing up for issue two of The Wine List, which will ship in just over a week’s time. If you want to be in with the chance to taste these wines, make sure you sign up today. I’m also looking forward to Autumn and thinking about the first tasting, which will exclusively be open to customers of The Wine List.

For the first issue, I sent out Westwell’s Ortega Amphora (limited to 700 bottles, it’s now sold out), and Asensio Carcelén 100x100 Syrah.

The Wine List is a monthly way to learn about wine at large. Like the tidbit lessons here? Each issue, you get guided lessons for two bottles of wine highlighting specific elements to taste. Your first issue comes with a full introductory tasting guide.

What have you been drinking this week? Hit reply and let me know.


I’m not that fond of Pinot gris (aka pinot grigio), which makes it all the more interesting when I get recommended a great one. Kumeu River’s Pinot Gris (£19 from NZ Cellar) has mineral peach and lemon in abundance. But for me, it’s the rounded body feel, and enticing texture of this wine that stand out.

I was sent a tasting pack by Capreolus Distillery recently. Based in the Cotswolds, Barney Wilczak has created a fantastic and elegant range of eau de vie and gin.

While quality grape growing in the UK is relatively new, we’ve been growing other types of fruit for centuries. When you taste Barney’s eau di vie of things like mulberry, quince, and damson, it’s amazing to think this type of distilling is so rare here. The Blackcurrant is so richly cassis-y, it’s almost childlike. The Doyenné du Comice Pear is softly sweet with a spicy background, my standout favourites. While the Chestnut Barrel Aged transports you to a winter wonderland.

All of Barney’s flavours are so rich, and so boozy. Each one between 43 and 46%. His Garden Swift gin, which won spirit of the year two years ago, is spicy, floral with lashings blood orange aroma. It’s wonderful by itself, but for me I adore this in a negroni. The only note on his eau du vie is that for those used to holiday grappa prices, this is at a premium, with half bottles ranging from £55 up to over £100. Treat yourself to one this winter, you won’t regret it.


But what is eau de vie?

Eau de vie is typically colourless fruit brandy. The fruit is first fermented and then distilled. It can be made from grapes, or many other types of fruit.

Originating in France, variations can be found all over Europe. In Germany, it’s called Schnapps, in Italy where pomace is used, it’s called Grappa, and in central Europe Slivovitz is made from damsons.

After distillation, eau de vie is not typically aged in oak barrels (hence the clear liquid), although some distillers may choose to.

There’s a huge variance in quality with eau de vie, which like with other fruit based spirits will be determined by quality of raw product, distillation technique, and then ageing style.

Further Reading

Eau de vie, The Wine Guy

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