Do you remember the wine cooler fad in the late 1980s and early 90s? Well, these wine coolers were all the rage, but recently they have had an exciting makeover. We reinvented our traditional wine and cheese night by trying some of these modern-day ‘wine cooler’ entrants to see if they can hold up next to the fan-favorite, hard seltzers.

For our tasting, we focused on wine-based, ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages. These included any wine-based beverage that you can pop the cap and start drinking on the spot (wine-based seltzers, wine spritzers, and wine coolers).

Seltzers & Sparkling

Part 2: Dark Wines

The flavors of today’s wine coolers tend toward the sophisticated, discerning palate. These wine coolers may not have that much in common, taste-wise, with the syrupy tropical citrus, peach, and wildberry flavored coolers of yore. But they share a similar sensibility with their precursors—a commitment to a good time, a refusal to take anything too seriously, an allegiance to chill.

Nadia Berenstein, “The Weird and Wavy History of Wine Coolers.VICE, 2018

OK, but why wine?

  • Wine delivers a rich full-bodied mouthfeel that many of the seltzers in the market do not
  • We all know taste is king, and the wine provides an authentic and beautiful profile that consumers around the world love
  • It is approachable yet can cue premiumization based on the positioning of the product

Winning Consumers’ Hearts

All of the tasted products have so much potential and tasted delicious. All of us said we would buy many of these again, but for some reason, they have not reached the same heights as the seltzers. This could be due to the fact they cannot get rid of the dated views of wine coolers, shelf location in stores, or other factors. However, after reviewing these products and being an expert in this space, we have three suggestions to win over more consumers’ hearts.

ONE: Lean into wine. Many brands in this space are trying to compete with seltzers but not making it clear on the label that it is wine-based. To appeal to more premium consumers, highlight varietal claims.

TWO: Add more complexity. Experiment with botanicals, spice, and flavors that are inherent in wine. Many flavors we tasted were very fruit-forward and could have benefited from the added complexity.

THREE: Fight for better positioning in the store and education for consumers to fight dated perspectives. These products are not easy to find as many were not in the front of the store near the seltzers.

One way to add complexity to your wine-based libation is leveraging our botanical brew to bring a healthy halo with an authentic profile.

“Our botanical brews were created with consumers of beverages like wine-based cocktails in mind. Our label-friendly brews allow you to easily add functional botanicals to your wine cocktail and offer libations like a delicious and relaxing Sparkling Blackberry Honey Chamomile Pinot.”

-Amber Cartwright, Sr. Product Manager

Why does this matter?

The RTD segment has recently become bigger in volume than the total spirits category in the US, according to The Spirits Business. IWSR expects it to gain 22% volume share of total beverage alcohol in the US by 2025. This fast-paced market has seen an incredible amount of new entrants as well as an unprecedented amount of innovation. We are continually keeping a pulse on what is next, and how can brands stay relevant in this market. Leveraging wine as a base is one way to stand out in the market and bring in new consumers.

Cin Cin!!!

A special thanks to Ali Luikart (Alcohol Beverage Applicationist), Elaine Schomaker (Account Manager), and Ashley Kindle (Category Marketing Manager) for sharing your perspective on this category and being my taste testers!

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