I feel the need to promote my favourite booze: ginger wine. I’m not a relative of Joseph Stone (the grocer who gave the brand its name) nor do I work for the World Ginger Beverage Council. I’m just surprised how it’s not more readily available and feel more people could be enjoying its fiery green goodness with me. Besides, I can’t drink it all.
Ginger wine may be considered rather disparagingly as something that your Gran would serve or as an out-dated alternative to a pre-roast dinner sherry or perhaps something that as a 14-year-old raiding your parents’ drinks cabinet you’d leave well alone. If this is how you think of ginger wine, I ask you to reconsider.
We drink a lot of this stuff in my household. It’s most likely to be consumed as a less potent alternative nightcap to whisky or often as a one-off weekday drink. Every camping trip or outdoor event (think bonfire night) is improved with a bottle of green ginger wine. Its 13.5% (or thereabouts) alcohol content means it doesn’t feel quite as decadent as drinking a spirit and its high ginger content means it’s not without its health benefits.
Health benefits of ginger wine
Ginger has been used for its medicinal properties for centuries among many cultures. Ginger is used to relieve digestive problems such as nausea, loss of appetite, motion sickness and pain. It can reduce inflammation and has even been cited as having aphrodisiac properties. As someone who has a long standing digestive disease and a healthy love of alcohol, this is a tailor made drink.
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or a dietitian. I like to self prescribe medication. I’m not sure it’s possible to have a healthy love of alcohol.
It’s sweet, warming, comforting and with that gingery fire actually feels like it may be doing you some good. Perfect as a gentle tipple, beneficial if you have a sore throat, soothing if you have digestive issues. But what’s in it? Ginger wine is a fortified wine made from a fermented blend of ground ginger root and raisins. It is often fortified by being blended with brandy.
Top tip: serve ginger wine with ice. It makes it colder and even nicer.
It would be a tremendous oversight not to mention the famous ‘Whisky Mac’, a cocktail consisting of ginger wine mixed with whisky (typically a blended Scotch whisky). This author has been undertaking years of research to determine which ginger wine and indeed which whisky makes the best Whisky Mac. The results are not in yet. That is a story for another day.
I also need to make the distinction between ginger wine and alcoholic ginger beer. The beer variety tends to be carbonated and sweet and one could argue it falls into the alcopop category.
Now that we have all those caveats out of the way, let’s take a look at the ginger wines readily available and decide which one is the best.
Which is the best ginger wine?
Stones is the most ubiquitous brand with its burnt amber colour. Once you know there are raisins in there you can really taste them. This is a fruity wine with a subtle warmth. I’d argue its warmth is too subtle. Needs more ginger.
“Caramelized citrus aromas and fiery ginger notes”
Sainsbury’s attempt at copying the Stones label should be commended, but what is more noteworthy is the contents of the bottle. It has a bright colour and real orangery notes. A bargain, and features more of a gingery kick than the more expensive brand it’s trying to imitate. Highly recommended.
Although it’s hard to argue against the value for money factor, this own label offering suffers from a synthetic taste that lacks depth. You should treat as a ‘cooking’ ginger wine, much like Carling is a cooking lager. I’m not sure what you’d cook with either of these beverages.
Crabbies has an amazing colour: that of lemon dishwasher rinse aid. It is also reminiscent of lime jelly. It is powerfully gingery, fruity and sweet, with hints of jelly baby. Crabbies is now probably more synonymous with their boozy ginger beer, but their wine shouldn’t be overlooked.
The most expensive and hardest to get hold of is made by by the same company that makes some kick-ass mead. It’s slightly stronger at 14.5%. Very smooth, but retaining a full ginger flavour. Highly recommended if you’re a moneybags but good luck getting hold of it in a supermarket.
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