When is a wine not a wine?

Timmermans, Lindemans, Melville’s, Hoopers, Carling Chrome, Jacques, Rekorderlig, Kopparberg, Lambrini, Brothers….


What do all of these have in common?

They’re all beers or ciders that owe some of their flavour to the addition of one or other kind of fruit. Some of these, like Timmermans cherry-flavoured Kriek, have a history stretching back to 1781; Lindemans, another Belgian brewery has been making its rasberry-flavoured Lambic beer in 1980 and launched its peach beer in 1987. 

Ancient – and modern


Carling Chrome which tastes of lemon only hit the streets earlier this year. Like Animée, its Molson Coors stablemate, Chrome is intended to expand the beer market by appealing to women. Animée appears to have gone too far in this direction, as an avowed “beer-for-girls”, but Chrome “brewed for a lighter, less bitter taste at 4.8% abv” is apparently doing well.


Click to watch the ad

Fruit cider is less familiar to many people, but Kopparberg, founded in 1882 and the makers of Sofiero, Sweden’s best selling beer and a pear cider under its own name, has actually built an international reputation making “Mixed Fruit” and “Strawberry & Lime” ciders. Remarkably, it has only just taken the revolutionary step of launching cider made exclusively from apples. Fruit cider’s success is easily explained. According to Mintel research, 70% of UK consumers like the “variety of different flavoured ciders”, compared to the 45% who say they prefer “traditional apple cider”. The same Mintel report saw cider growth in sales value of 60% between 2005-2010, predicted further growth of 45% by 2015 – and attributed much of this growth to the popularity of flavoured ciders.


Note the new “Naked” Apple Cider 

Then there’s Rekorderlig, another phenomenally successful Swedish fruit cider brand that was launched way back in 1999.
It helps to have a name that’s easy to
remember or pronounce. Or maybe not.

So, what’s all this to do with wine – the usual focus of attention for this blog? Well, take a little look at these

Fancy a Fanny? 

 
French supermarket giant Leclerc’s own-label version

       
Plenty more where these came from 

They’re just a few of the grapefruit-flavoured rosés that have been taking the French market by storm this year, and quite possibly helping to reverse the Gallic trend away from traditional wine drinking. I’m not sure how well the “Fanny” brand would play in the UK or US but the style might easily find as ready an audience as the fruit ciders have in these markets.

And if the Anglo-Saxons don’t take to the bitter-sweet flavour of these rosés, they may prefer reds or whites that are flavoured with peach, mango, strawberry or blackcurrant. Like these examples that have recently been launched onto the UK market, under the banners of familiar brands such as Hardy’s, Banrock, Echo Falls and JP Chenet.

Getting canned on a Saturday night

Cassis in wine: an old tradition

Of course, these can’t legally call themselves “wines”; in fact “wine cocktail” would be the correct description. But then even if no fruit flavour has been used, when a wine has had its alcohol physically reduced to 5.5% – the level at which UK excise duty plummets – it still loses the right to use that description. Reduced-strength efforts like First Cape Cafe Collection have to be labelled as “reduced alcohol wine based drink”. And they don’t taste as good as the ones that have had the benefit of added fruit flavour.

  
  Not quite wines…


To declare an interest, I’ve done research for a 5.5% wine cocktail brand – not one of the ones mentioned in this post – and discovered for myself (and the client) just how agreeable ordinary, wine-drinking consumers found it. In fact, for the first of the three tests, we served it blind to people who mostly imagined that the pink cocktail was actually a Californian rosé wine.

No such mistake would presumably be made about the chocolate-flavoured wines that are taking the US market by storm.


Interesting that the Wine Spectator chose this from a range
of severat “chocolate-flavored red wines”

All I know is that, whether purists like it or not, flavoured wines, ciders and beers are as much of a commercial reality as other recent inventions ranging from pineapple pizza and avocado sushi to e-books and latte. And for that reason alone, I find it interesting how much less discussion there is of them than of  the “natural” wines which will never be more than a sideshow.

6 comments

  1. Hi Robert,

    Interesting stuff. Yes I'm not surprised the 'ordinary' market likes these as (massive generalisation) it does seem to value sweetness/fruitiness in drinks. Personally, it's not so much a question of 'is it natural/traditional/purist' but (to my palate only of course) how does it taste. Difficult to judge without having the stuff in my mouth. Who knows?

    Tyrone

  2. All subjective isn't it?!! Only thing that matters is the consumer…we have had strawberry wine in the Uk for years – go to Lulworth etc. lower duty makes wine cheaper which encourages purchase but if consumer doesn't like the style they won't come back. So if you do lower alcohol or fruit flavoured wine try do it well. But then what does “well” mean to the consumer vs. the trade 😉

  3. Yes you're right Catherine, the trade vs. consumer perspective on wine/drinks is perennially grappled with. As has been pointed out by ultra-perceptive Robert & others, the trade & press still struggle to get out of the habit of talking to itself about its products.

  4. Thank you Tyrone, Catherine. I think the essential point is that all of these drinks – including latte – are quite unlike the “originals” so beloved by purists. Most Italian coffee drinkers would no more dream of drinking the kind of milky brew that is so popular in UK and US coffee chains than a diehard Bordeaux fan would choose to buy a strawberry-flavoured red or peach-infused white. But there are plenty of people who don't actually enjoy traditional wine. This presumably is something that could be said of the 50% of French women who, according to recent official statistics, now consider themselves non wine-drinkers.

    In the UK, their counterparts happily get through large quantities of white Zinfandel which would be viewed with contempt on the other side of the Channel.

    My point is that, just as we should all take the opportunity occasionally to read a tabloid or watch a TV soap that are not to our taste, anyone with a serious interest in the world of drink should go out and buy and taste examples of fruit cider and flavoured beers and wines – yes, including the chocolate versions – with an open mind.

  5. …good advice indeed Robert, equal opportunities drinking is essential! Over & out.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s