Grapefruit rosés, chestnut whites, and now... cola reds.
At Vinexpo, the international wine trade show that wrapped up on Thursday in Bordeaux, French wine dealer Haussmann Famille unveiled an exclusive new product: red wine with a cola flavor.
The flavored-wine sector has been making headlines due to the rising popularity of its offerings and the boldness of its producers, who have no qualms about breaking with tradition.
It is just two years since the first such wines were announced, marking the start of a small revolution that, for many oenophiles, amounts to nothing less than heresy.
According to the latest estimates, 30 million bottles of flavored wine will be sold in France this year, double the figure in 2012.
Rosé, with a grapefruit twist
This citrussy beverage – comprising rosé wine, water, sugar and grapefruit flavoring – is the star of the new market in France for flavored wine-based beverages. Today, grapefruit rosés account for 75 percent of sales in the sector.
Even the jury of the Concours Agricole de Paris, a prestigious French competition for agricultural products, showed its approval, awarding a silver medal to the grapefruit rosé produced by Maison Bigallet. In this context, it's no surprise that a number of winemakers and traders presented their own flavored wines at Vinexpo this year.
A wine dealer working with growers in the Bordeaux region, Haussmann Famille waited for this key event to set the wine world abuzz with its "rouge cola": red wine accented by the taste of the famous soda. This product is the latest in a range launched by the company last April under the name of "Sucette" (French for "lollipop").
"The result is surprising," admits Pauline Lacombe, Haussmann Famille's marketing director. She says the beverage "should be served ice cold," and that "the balance between the bitterness of the wine and the sweetness of the cola is perfect."
Future possibilities in the realm of flavored wine are limited only by the imagination of producers, who work hand in hand with flavor laboratories. Haussmann Famille's first strides in the sector included Rosé Sucette Fruits de la Passion, a rosé wine with passion-fruit flavoring. A white version of the passion-fruit Sucette soon followed, as rosé wines are not the only ones that lend themselves to flavoring.
"Technically, all colors are likely to be associated with a flavor. One can come up with as many flavors as there are different yogurts," says Olivier Poels, co-author of the reference guide "Les meilleurs vins de France."
Winning over new wine consumers
Is grapefruit rosé the first chapter in a long-term success story? According to Poels, it is still too early to tell. The French have shown their discernment in recent years by drinking less wine but selecting better-quality products. But they have also shown openness to wines produced by somewhat unorthodox methods. In fact, fans of flavored wine have little in common with conventional wine enthusiasts.
Producers of this new breed of wine-based beverages say they are targeting women and young adults, and a focus on colorful packaging makes all the difference.
"Flavored wine gives newcomers an introduction to wine," says Lacombe of Haussmann Famille. "For younger consumers, these beverages help to make the transition between soft drinks and more-mature beverage choices. Our Rosé Sucette Fruits de la Passion, for example, has an alcohol content of just 9 percent by volume."
This is one factor that keeps the price of flavored wines at a reasonable level. Even Haussmann Famille, while insisting that its products are at the higher end of the market, places its price point at 2.95 euros ($3.87) a bottle in France.
The Bordeaux-based company rejects the idea that flavored wines could seriously tarnish its image: "This product is entirely different from what we offer in parallel. And we are proud of the result," says Lacombe.
Brainstorming is already under way for the development of the next offering in the "Sucette" range.
*Rouge Sucette Cola will be available in early July in French grocery stores at 2.95 euros a bottle.