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Drinks companies invest in fusion wine boom

Drinks companies invest in fusion wine boom



Red wine aged in whisky barrels, beer aged in bourbon barrels, bourbon aged in wine barrels, and now a sauvignon blanc aged in tequila barrels ... cross-product innovation is the hottest thing in alcohol right now.

The sauvignon blanc/tequila barrel combination is a bit of a curve ball. But Constellation Brands reckons it's on a winner with its new release under the Cooper & Thief label. 

Based in Napa, Cooper & Thief cellarmaster Jeff Kasavan drew inspiration from the success of his first Red Blend aged in bourbon barrels to explore how spirits barrel ageing could enrich the flavors of a white wine.

According to his tasting notes: "Cooper & Thief Sauvignon Blanc is a rich wine full of aromatic fruit characters, with classic citrus and spice notes reminiscent of a fine blue agave tequila, giving way to toasty vanilla flavors from the barrels. Ageing for three months in Casa Noble añejo tequila barrels creates an unusual richness in the structure, balanced with refreshing acidity and finishing with a subtle heat."

It's also a canny marketing move given the popularity of tequila in the US market. 

Tequila sales are growing at an annual rate of 5.8% on average in the US, with super-premium and “high-end” offerings experiencing an increase of 292% since 2002.

It's not the only white wine to give the trend a whirl, Robert Mondavi Private Selection Bourbon Barrel-Aged Chardonnay, for example, is described by The Globe And Mail as "a full-bodied wine that transcends butter and veers into butterscotch, yet still manages to retain a respectable finish."

Meanwhile, Cooper & Thief's Red Blend "is a dark and jammy red wine blend loaded with bourbon-inspired flavors and aromas. Crafted by Cellarmaster, Jeff Kasavan, our wine is aged for three months in bourbon barrels, which gives way to soft, velvety tannins with a subtle heat. The combined result is a rich flavor, with a long, lingering finish."

It follows in the footsteps of Chile’s Concha y Toro, which has experienced huge success with its Fetzer 1000 Stories wine made from Californian Zinfandel that has been aged in bourbon barrels.

The label has seen phenomenal growth from 5000 cases in 2014 to 120,000 cases of annual sales in the past 12 months, according to Fetzer winemaking director, Bob Blue.

Blue told The Drinks Business the idea for the wine came about when discussing target markets and trending products in the drinks industry.

“We were talking about new projects and, having noticed that there were wines for women, we thought, how about a wine for guys? And what about using Bourbon barrels? – Because, as a franchise, bourbon is really growing,” he recalled. 

Australia got in on the act when Jacob’s Creek launched the The Double Barrel Matured Shiraz in Australia in 2014, which uses aged Scotch whisky barrels for finishing the wine, adding “complex nuances of almond-husks”.

Winemaker Bernard Hickin noted: “The use of Scotch whisky barrels to finish our Double Barrel Shiraz has imparted additional layers of complexity and smoothness, which combine beautifully with the rich varietal plum, fruit cake and chocolate notes of Barossa Shiraz."

The fusion has been so successful it now has a multi-million dollar advertising campaign behind it, starring Chris Hemsworth.

According to Food Dive: "These hybrid products could intrigue connoisseurs of different kinds of alcohol — as well as those occasional drinkers who simply like to try something new and interesting, particularly if it offers a unique flavor profile. It possible that bourbon lovers might be interested in trying the new brew and increase their beer consumption in the long term as a result. As consumer demand for authentic, unusual beverage experiences grows, it's likely that major beer, wine and spirits makers will continue to roll out unconventional products to try and differentiate from their competition."

Coffee-infused wine: jumping the shark?

Just in case tequila-infused sauvignon blanc isn't making your head spin enough, a California-based winery called Apothic Wines has just released a red wine called Apothic Brew that’s a blend of merlot, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon infused with cold brew coffee.

The flavor profile apparently comprises velvety chocolate notes of cold brew with juicy blackberry characteristics from the dark red wine.

It might sound out there, but cold brew coffee is a huge trend in the States. The demand for cold brew grew a staggering 430% between 2015 and 2017 with 50% of millennials specifically drinking coffee that’s brewed in cold water for up to 24 hours and contains more caffeine than your average cup.

According to Refinery 29: "Apothic Brew has a mocha flavor to it that reminds us of a toned-down version of red wine hot chocolate — if you haven't had that home concoction, you're missing out. While it definitely tastes like you're drinking wine and not coffee, it is bold and smooth like a glass of cold brew. Because of that boldness and its mocha notes, the wine probably isn't the right drink to pair with dinner. We'd save it for an after-dinner drink and pair it with a lighter dessert like a fruit plate. Unlike cold brew, a glass of Apothic Brew will warm you up as red wine should, so it might not be exactly what you're looking for on a hot summer day. Still, our concerns about two rights making a wrong were unwarranted."

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