Americans went crazy for rainbow bagels and Unicorn Frappuccinos and millennial pink tequila. And given how quickly we flock to the newest hyperpigmented trendy food item - snapping trophy photos for social media, of course - the makers of Gik must be pretty certain they have a hit on their hands. The Spanish-based winemakers will soon begin selling their blue wine in the United States.
It's really, really blue. Mouthwash blue. Smurf blue - those little guys probably get hammered on this stuff. It's a blue that you'd think wouldn't be found in nature, except it is: The wine gets its color from anthocyanin, a pigment found in grape skins, and indigotine, a dye extracted from plants.
Gik (it rhymes with "ick") hails from Spain, where the company's co-founders - none of whom had any experience in the wine industry - decided they wanted to create something. They worked with a team of chemical engineers at the University of the Basque Country to develop the wine's unusual color.
"Thanks to them, we discovered that the best way to create it was to go back to the beginning and merge nature and technology: we mix different varieties of grapes and after that, we use two organic pigments to turn it blue," Aritz López, one of the wine's creators, said in an email. "Then, we improve the flavor and make it easy to drink."
The grapes are a mixture of red and white, which come from wineries in Spain and France. Noncaloric sweeteners are added to make a chilled, dessert-like wine that its founders say pairs well with guacamole, sushi - or anything, really. They seem to be intentionally vague, either because they want the maximum number of people to buy it, or because it goes with nothing at all.
The wine has been popular with consumers, but not well-received among the oenophile community in Europe. (Surprise, surprise: Wine snobs don't want to drink a beverage that looks like early-aughts Hpnotiq.)
"The most traditional part of the Spanish wine sector has encouraged us to 'leave the industry alone and go create apps,' and even told us that Gik was a 'terrible invention,' " López said.
There's a regulatory reason for their snobbery: The European Union prohibits the brand from calling itself 100 percent wine in Europe, where blue is not an approved color of wine. The company was fined by the Basque section of Spain's Agriculture Ministry for violating wine regulations, and its label now says that it is 99 percent wine and 1 percent grape must. But no such restrictions exist in the United States, where it will be called blue wine when it is sold in Florida, Massachusetts and Texas this month, and eventually other states.
"The U.S. is much more open-minded than Spain," López said.
But Brent Kroll, a certified sommelier and owner of Maxwell, a Washington wine bar, doesn't think that blue wine will win much respect in the States, either.
"The tasting profile that I hear people describe it as is blue Hawaiian Punch," he said. "I think the only chance it has as being taken somewhat seriously in restaurants is if someone finds a creative way to do it in a cocktail. But even in cocktails, people are trying to get away from gimmicky stuff."
Kroll knows not to underestimate the power of social media, however, so he thinks it could work as a blue version of frosé, the pink wine slushies that have become so popular in the past few years. Just not at his bar.
We served blue wine to a panel of blindfolded tasters to see if they could identify it and the four other colors of wine - red, white, rosé and orange. Previous studies have found that our perception of wines is often based on visual cues. In a famous study, red and white wines were kept at room temperature and poured into black glasses, and tasters could not tell the difference between the two.
But Gik is so distinctive that many were able to pick it out right away, for better or worse. Tasting notes included: "Blue Jolly Ranchers," "Robitussin," "Capri Sun" and "Gross." It was a highly polarizing drink. Not surprising, people who prefer sweet wines thought it was great, and people who prefer dry wines thought it was disgusting. When it comes to the United States, it will retail for less than $15 a bottle - just the right price for an impulse purchase for a party.
After all, as Kroll notes, "the millennial wine drinker always wants to Instagram things."
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