The biggest trend in drinks right now is all about the blend

Penfolds' release this year of a wine fortified with baijiu spirit is further evidence of the widespread erosion of traditional boundaries between alcoholic drinks.

Wine purists may scoff at the adulteration of Australian shiraz with Chinese "firewater". Plenty certainly did in 2014, when Jacob's Creek released the Double Barrel range of wines, finished in ex-whisky casks.

Double the fun

But Double Barrel, which is effectively a reversal of the wine barrel finishing that whisky distillers have practised for centuries, appears to have some legs.

The shiraz and cabernet sauvignon versions of Double Barrel are now available in 20 countries globally, and a chardonnay was added in Australia earlier in 2018.

Jacob's Creek has put serious dollars behind the products with a video campaign featuring actor Chris Hemsworth and billboard advertising currently visible across Sydney.

In short, hybrid drinks are no longer just the domain of 'craft'. They have entered the mainstream.

Serious business

"You see things like wine being aged in whisky barrels and you think, 'clearly these segments are getting a little more merged'," says Topher Boehm of Sydney's Wildflower Brewers and Blenders.

A brewer first and foremost, Boehm recently launched his annual release Wildflower St Florence, a beer fermented with wine grapes.

The 2018 vintage has brought two versions, a Pinot Noir Wild Ale and a Sauvignon Blanc Wild Ale, produced using fruit sourced from De Salis Wines in Orange.


Soon he will launch a wine under the Wildflower label made from the same batch of Pinot grapes.

"It's the same fruit, same picking and same yeast. Part of it was left to become wine, the other part we blended it with aged beer and allowed them to ferment together, and now you get this product," says Boehm.

Beer and beyond

Such projects that take Wildflower beyond the realm of 'beer' have proven educational for drinkers, who today are increasingly open-minded and curious, but also Boehm himself.

"I'm not necessarily interested in wine or beer or cider or spirits. These things all exist in the same realm for me, they're not so segregated," he says.

"Most of the people that I work with, it doesn't matter what they make, they're generally very experienced or very knowledgeable on yeast and how to work with those fermentations in a positive way.

"Hopefully I can become better at my trade by being open to learning from other people's trades."

A lot of flavour

Penfolds meanwhile has almost certainly had a world first with its genre-bending Lot 518, according to global fortified and spirit winemaker James Godfrey.

"Our traditional fortified vintage production style is based around shiraz, so it's big, rich and vibrant. It has nice tannin structure and lots of fruit aromas," he says.

"Baijiu is a vast array of different styles of spirit, but the one we've selected is within the fragrant ricey style, so it's the finer and more elegant. When you blend that with our wine to do that last fortification, it gives us this savoury note and ties it texturally beautifully together.

"We've done it so that Australians could see the connection with Australia in that it is obviously shiraz and has those characteristics, but the Chinese will definitely see it has a connection with baijiu because it has those definitive savoury notes."

Scroll through the gallery above for some of Australia's most weird and wonderful hybrid drinks.