This monthly summary highlights the most interesting product launches in July, with a focus on the direction the alcoholic drinks industry is taking in terms of innovative developments.
Wine: Blue Sky Thinking In A Bottle?
Relative stability breeds complacency and inertia. Still light grape wine, notoriously conservative to begin with, has enjoyed a largely jubilant trajectory over the past decade – spurred by its enthusiastic embrace by American audiences and the huge gravitational pull of the seemingly insatiable Asian market. But trends are evolving.
Witnessing static total volume growth on a global level for 2014 as it recovers from its first negative print under the weight of the Chinese austerity campaign of 2013, still light grape wine is facing fresh and growing challenges. Eastern Europe remains caught in a geopolitical downward spiral, Western Europe is struggling to escape its own macroeconomic travails while the almighty US market appears to be finally decelerating.
It is an issue of positioning, branding and rising cross category competition as much as it is the inevitable outcome of maturity taking hold. The currently booming micro brewing and micro distilling segments are rewriting the playbook across western markets. Irreverent experimentation, controversial ingredients, production and maturation techniques are assaulting once totemic industry sensibilities.
Flavoured extensions are breaking centuries old taboos, serving and drinking rituals are reassessed and niche segments are becoming protagonists as consumers are seeking heritage, uniqueness and exoticism in equal measures.
While the still light grape wine industry has indeed made some significant steps in the right direction, it has largely stayed out of the fray. Low abv and low calorie offerings, ground-breaking ways of communicating flavour profiles or sidestepping alienating terminology are all well and good but the impact of casual, light-hearted innovation initiatives can easily be underestimated. It should not.
The rising popularity of wine-based RTDs, the once unthinkable suggestion of adding mixers to a wine serving and even rose wine coming of age while its orange sibling is gathering the limelight are such examples. And now a blue wine comes to playfully question even the colour categorisation forming the backbone of the industry. Will it give birth to an entirely new category? Highly unlikely but breaking the mould is essential and long overdue.
Six entrepreneurs in their ’20s have invented Gik, a bright blue wine from Bierzo in northwest Spain made with red and white grapes. The wine took two years to develop in collaboration with the University of the Basque Country and Azti Tecnalia, the food research department of the Basque Government.
A base wine is created from red and white grapes, then anthocyanin and indigo pigments are added to turn it blue and the wine is softened with sweeteners. Its makers recommend serving the 11.5% abv Gik cold due to that underlying sweetness.