After decades out of favor, wine coolers are cool again. But these aren’t your 80’s wine coolers, which were basically an excuse to sell cheap wine by adding sugary syrups and sodas. We’re talking wine coolers going “craft”. What they all share is flavoring with higher-quality ingredients like organic fruit or all-natural flavorings.
So how did wine coolers start to dig their way out of a decades-long sugary slumber? Signs start to show back in 2015 with the revival of the wine spritzer. Unlike wine coolers, spritzers are slightly more acceptable to health-conscious Americans in that they involve mixing wine with water and plain soda water, rather than flavored soda. L.A. chef Josh Rosenstein started Hoxie, hitting on the desire for a lighter, cleaner beverage. Then in 2016, wine behemoth Barefoot introduced spritzers to shelves nationwide.
Once spritzers became familiar, consumers were now ready for the next step up: wine coolers. The most notable is Ramona, a wine made from organic Sicilian Zibbibo grapes and blended with natural ruby grapefruit. Because when former Eleven Madison Park sommelier and Momofuku beverage director Jordan Salcito launches a wine cooler, the industry pays attention. Early press has lauded Ramona’s refreshing, slightly bitter grapefruit notes. And after Kanye and Rihanna picked up a can? The rest is history. Ramona is rapidly rolling out nationwide, and plans to introduce new varietals soon.
Now, both wine coolers and spritzers are picking up steam, with two more brands announcing introductions to the market. Via Fast Company, popular canned wine brand Union Wine Company just revealed not only its first wine cooler, but also its plans to redefine what it means to be a canned wine. Union Wine Company’s rationale is that traditional wine doesn’t actually make sense in a 12 ounce can. With its high ABV, downing two cans is the equivalent of an entire bottle — and an express ticket to tipsy. So, their first wine cooler is a lower-ABV blend of grapefruit juice flavored with hops and malt, to drink almost like a beer.
Napa’s St. Mayhem also announced the launch of a canned version of its craft wine cooler, Ginger Loves Company. Ginger Loves Company is made with Chardonnay, peaches and ground ginger. Unlike Union Wine Company, it does not go easy on the alcohol, clocking in at 14% ABV. However, it compensates with a smaller 8.5 ounce can.
On the spritzer end, the talent behind Kona Brewing, Pacific Rim Winery, Scott Paul Wines, and Kettle Brand just launched Blossom Brothers Artisanal Wine Company this past May. Their brand’s mission: to create the market’s first botanical-infused wine spritzer. The wines have no added artificial ingredients or sugar — just the addition of natural botanical essences, water, and light carbonation. Flavors currently include White Peach & Jasmine Flower, Blood Orange & Ginger Root, and Pink Grapefruit & Honeycomb.
The newest coolers (and spritzers) are a far cry from your Seagrams or Bacardi bottles. Expect to see them more bartenders and restaurants serving up their own artisanal takes on coolers, and more brands hopping on the wine cooler bandwagon.