It’s toward the end of the workday and you’re dragging — torn between wanting a caffeinated jolt of coffee or moving right into a relaxing glass of wine.
Now you can have both — in the same glass. A company called Friends Fun Wine has introduced a new product to the growing flavored wine market, combining “the world’s most popular day drink with the world’s most popular night drink,” according to the company’s news release.
Adding flavors to wine has been around for centuries, since the first vintner invented vermouth, an aromatized fortified wine flavored with various botanicals.
The history of wine culture includes widespread accounts of regional recipes combining herbs, spices, plants, juice, and spirits with a wine base. And who can forget the wine cooler explosion of the 1970s and ’80s?
But today’s modern mixologists and brand builders have really pushed the envelope. You can currently find wine bases flavored with coffee, chocolate, hazelnuts, even ice cream. And a company called Birthday Cake Vineyards has even bottled flavors of your favorite cake into the bottle.
This trend is not just happening in America. Last year, French Bordeaux-based Haussmann Famille introduced cola and passion fruit wines. The bold move, targeted largely to younger adults transitioning from soda to wine hybrids, appears to have been a huge success. Sweet inexpensive bottlings, such as those from Haussmann Famille, account for a large segment of the market among young French wine drinkers.
If it seems outrageous, even sacrilegious, to traditionalists who rant at the idea of these hybrid wine drinks, it’s an opportunity for a new generation of experimental marketers and consumers. Besides, the trend does not seem to be hurting the conventional wine market, which grew in the U.S. for the 20th year in a row in 2013 (Americans purchased a record 3.38 billion liters of wine last year, almost double the volume bought in 1993).
The largest segment of the flavored wine segment is reserved for fruit blends, but sweet additions such as chocolate are experiencing a rapid rise in sales, notably with ChocoVine, the original chocolate brand that now pushes espresso and raspberry spinoffs.
Birthday Cake Vineyards became extensive research and development project, spearheaded by two entrepreneurs and friends, Raphael Yakoby (creator of Hpnotiq and Nuvo) and David Kanbar (formerly executive at Skyy Vodka and co-creator of Skinnygirl). They shared the vision of creating a blend of confectionary flavors with fine wines, inspired by the tasting notes that one often hears or reads wine experts use to describe great wines, such as hints of cinnamon, chocolate, and cherry.
They liked the idea of combining the decadent nature of Birthday Cake with the enjoyment of wine. So, the flavors were developed around a Birthday Cake theme (Coffee Cake, Cheesecake, Cake Batter, Black Forest Cake, and Strawberry Shortcake), without “cloying, rich or overly sweet flavors,” according to the company website.
Then there’s the wine slushie. The company Tropical Wine Mixes sells bags of different tropical flavors that consumers add to a mix of equal parts water and inexpensive red or white wine. Just put everything in a gallon-sized, sealed plastic bag, freeze for 4 hours and, presto, wine slushies at the ready.
The new product message: Any combination is fair game. Bacon, barbecue and taco flavors in wine. Why not? The potato chip industry has gone full out to market the bold category of chips (Lay’s just introduced Chicken and Waffle flavored chips). Wine with bacon? Wine with olives? Wine with brie cheese? All in the same bottle?
It could happen sooner than you may think.