Sommeliers Weigh In on Wine Gimmicks, from Blue Wine to Rosé Forties
“The trend of making wine for people who hate wine confounds me.”
If you’re appalled by the idea of “mermaid prosecco,” imagine how a sommelier feels.
We asked three professional wine geeks about the year’s wackiest, most Instagram-forward trends, from fluorescent blue wine to rosé sold in forties. Their responses were as colorful as the wines themselves.
Roni Ginach, the sommelier at Michael’s Santa Monica, is at once fascinated and disgusted by the drink, first introduced to the market by the Spanish brand Gik in 2016.
“Everything I wasn't allowed near as a kid transformed into an adult beverage—sounds like a dream,” she says. “Also, kind of gross. But if it gets the kids in Spain to start drinking wine again, I'm for it.”
Another sommelier—Christian Barion, who works at Love & Salt in Manhattan Beach, California—isn’t exactly offended, either. Blue wine works best in cocktails, he says, though even then, the most it can aspire to is “pleasant.”
“I had the opportunity to taste the blue 'wine' products, both still and sparkling, almost two years ago, even before they were officially launched into the U.S. market,” he says. “They taste like simple, low-alcohol, pleasant beverages that try to mimic the flavors, aromas and taste sensations that you might find in a glass of wine. They can be fun when incorporated into a simple cocktail to create unique color variations.”
Another wine geek with a laissez-faire attitude regarding blue wines? Melissa Rogers, sommelier at Doris Metropolitan in New Orleans. Rogers thinks people should be able to drink whatever weird liquid they want, but they shouldn’t call it “wine” if it’s technically not wine.
“I am a big proponent of enjoying wine the way you want to, whether that means adding ice cubes or drinking super chilled bubbles—it’s your bottle,” she says. “However, the trend of making wine for people who hate wine confounds me. There is no need to force this alcoholic beverage into the rules of the wine world, so respect those rules and call it something else.”
The creation from Italy’s Saraceni Wines gets its bright color from blue curaçao, a liqueur made from orange peels.
“I am not exactly sure who proclaimed mermaids only drink vibrant blue liquid, but Saraceni Wines is capitalizing on a trend,” says Rogers. “My major issue is that it isn't ‘Prosecco.’ Market Blumond as a ‘bottled cocktail,’ and let the mermaid-lovers around the world rejoice.”
Ginach is more troubled by the mermaid trend than the “wine” itself.
“It's hard to find a contemporary relevance for the blue-haired silent pixie with extravagantly-long batting eyelashes,” she says. She’d rather see a resurgence in grower Champagne made by “bad-ass female winemakers.”
Most sommeliers don’t think the mermaid thing has legs (pun so, so intended.) Barion says rainbow-colored, wine-like beverages will never achieve credibility among industry professionals.
“I've had several conversations about these products with fellow somms, working in Italy, England and here in the States, and all of us agree that they will never become a real trend,” he says. “Even more, they will probably never get the chance to appear in quality restaurants and wine shops. No one working in the industry who has studied the different laws, traditions, terroirs and cultures and stand behind a good bottle of wine would ever dream of featuring these drinks in their beverage programs.”
The reason for this is simple, he says: “Mermaid,” i.e. artificially-colored, wines aren’t officially recognized by any of the European Union boards of enology, viticulture or agriculture. Rather, they’re “recognized and regulated as fermented beverages with low alcoholic content. Hence, they do not belong in a wine list.”
Ginach grew up drinking forties of Colt 45 in brown bags on stoops around the city—“a pastime that the white, privileged youth aggressively appropriated then.” This current gesture, she says, takes that appropriation a giant step further.
“I'm a big fan of Patrick Cappiello; Pearl & Ash and Rebelle are industry standards, and I have the utmost respect for the work he's done and continues to do for the wine world as a whole,” she says. “But somehow this gesture feels off. The gimmick as a tool is always tough to get behind, especially when it's so directly referential and, again, appropriative. It's important to make our luxury commodity approachable to the mass market, but at what cost?”
Rogers, however, doesn’t care so much about the vehicle in which wine is served, as long as it’s delicious.
“Having never tasted what's in the bottle, I am not mad at the packaging,” she says. “If it's good juice, it's good juice. End of story.”
The trend shows no sign of dying down. Nashville’s Marsh House and L.A. Jackson are launching a “forties program” this summer at the Thompson Hotel. They’re offering guests two different 40 oz. bottles including a Julien Braud Forty Ounce Rosé, Loire Valley 2016 and a Julien Braud Forty Ounce Muscadet complete with brown paper bags and sharpies to mark their bags.
A trend that has endured from 2016, the frozen wine slushie consists of rosé, strawberries, sugar vodka and grenadine. And no one’s mad at it—not even purists.
“Sometimes it's okay to break the seal of pretension for a little poolside splurge,” Ginach says. She recommends using an older, darker rosé with some residual sugar for more complexity of flavor.
“I secretly loved this trend, which I know is a little cheesy,” adds Rogers. “The first person to say, ‘Throw that margarita in a blender with ice’ was probably thought of as crazy, too. Wine can be fun and occasionally playful. I say take your favorite porch pounding rosé and blend away.”
We side with Rogers on this one.
“Personally, I'm not sure what the Prosecco actually adds to the nail polish, and I would rather drink Prosecco than wear it,” she says. “But as they say in New Orleans, ‘You do you.’”