THE BOOZE BIN
By Laura Petrosky (@aushunmon)
Skinnygirl, the ready-to-drink, low-calorie cocktail brand from ex-Real Housewives of New York reality star Bethenny Frankel, is introducing its first low-calorie wines to the U.S. in March. After selling 595,000 cases of the brand’s margarita, sangria and white cranberry cosmo last year, Beam Global Spirits & Wine (who bought the brand from Frankel) is planning to leave a not-so-skinny impact on the wine market.
With an initial production of 200,000 cases, three low-calorie California wine blends (including a red blend made primarily with Syrah, a white blend made primarily from Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio, and a rosé blend featuring Grenache and Syrah) priced at $15 each will target the fitness- and health-conscious female wine drinker. The market is there: Women buy roughly 80 percent of “everyday” wines, while they only make up about 60 percent of wine drinkers. And the brand promise is enticing: Merely 100 calories for a five ounce pour of Skinnygirl wine.
Beverage marketers have long known that even peeps who watch their waist size want to have a good time. When was the last time you walked into a bar and could not order a light beer or a skinny cocktail? Even marketing wine as a lower-calorie option is not new – most glasses of wine only contain 125-150 calories, per say. Clever marketers such as beverage giant Diageo capitalized on this when they noticed an uptick in consumer interest in healthier beverage choices without actually changing their winemaking styles. After a new ruling by the U.S. government in 2004 allowed beverage makers to place information about calorie and carbohydrate content on its back labels, Diageo started to market its high-volume BV Coastal, Sterling Vintners Collection and Century Cellars brands as “low-carb.”
Moscato, a grape variety naturally low in alcohol content, has become increasingly popular for its lower calorie count compared to its taste or food-friendliness. Numbers don’t lie: In 2011, Moscato achieved by far the largest year-on-year gain in U.S. wine sales, up 73 percent in value and volume compared to 2010.
Highlighting an existing product feature because it fits into a current lifestyle trend is one thing, but tweaking the product to fit the demand is different. Many American winemakers and marketers have reported an increased interest in wines in the 11-12 percent range, as opposed to 15-16 percent. That’s why, in 2004, Napa Valley’s Beringer Blass Wine Estates launched White Lie Early Season Chardonnay, the first reduced-calorie wine from a major vintner since the 1980s. By harvesting grapes early in the season, they were able to control their sugar content.
And now there’s Skinnygirl. As a consumer, I applaud more variety to choose from. As a wine lover, however, I hope that people will continue to choose wine based on taste, not calories. The craftsmanship that goes into producing a stellar bottle of wine is too important to ignore just because one glass of vino has 125 calories compared to another that has 100. When it comes down to it, omit something else from your diet – like dessert – and still indulge in that great bottle of wine.