How Instagram is driving wine trends

Tuesday, 5. September 2017 - 10:00

Los Angeles' Museum of Ice Cream/Katie Gibbs

Wandering the wine shows this year, it was easy to spot the big and emerging trends. Sparkling wine was everywhere, as was rosé. But here and there was something more unexpected: coloured wines. Red ones, green ones, and the occasional bright yellow one. Mostly, though, they were ice blue.

It’s tempting to discount them as gimmicks – except the rise of rosé suggests blue wine might find a place in the market, too.

Thinking pink
Pink wine, once something of a social embarrassment, has become a vital cash cow for many wineries. According to Nielsen data quoted by Beverage Daily, US rosé sales have grown 52% to $207m in the year to June 2017, outpacing the overall wine sector. Not only are similar spikes showing up elsewhere, but higher-priced rosés are outperforming generic, entry level, sweeter styles.

The forces behind rosé’s rise have been exhaustively analysed: there’s the celebrity involvement by the likes of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt at Château Miraval in Provence, and Drew Barrymore with her Californian brand. There are also the ‘frosé’ (frozen rosé) and ‘brosé’ (men drinking rosé) trends, and the appearances of more complex, dryer, and more premium styles.

There are two other big drivers of rosé, both of which have implications for coloured wines. The first is Instagram. “America has the largest number of Instagram users in the world, with Russia second,” said Sarah Abbott MW, co-moderator at a Vinisud 2017 rosé seminar. “There are over 60m Instagram users in the States and they share these images.” Abbott showed Instagrammed images of bottles of rosé by swimming pools, on lunch tables, and in the hands of the young and beautiful. “Between 2009 and 2015, there was a five-fold increase of sales of Provencal rosé in the US, and this is the way these kinds of trends are being shared.”

The second major trend is the inexorable rise of ‘millennial pink’, the apricot salmon colour that’s dominated design, retail, and fashion for the past half decade. Just why it’s been so popular has been the subject of both pop culture and academic speculation – The Cut’s Lauren Schwartzberg has argued that, “In these Instagram-filtered times, it doesn’t hurt that the colour happens to be both flattering and generally pleasing to the eye,” as well as speaking to contemporary gender fluidity.

So significant is this intersection of Instagram and millennial pink, that companies are rolling out new ‘Instagrammable’ products, from the rose-pink iPhone to Starbucks’ garish pink- and-blue Unicorn Frappuccino. Recently, a pink-dominated Museum of Ice Cream opened in Los Angeles, whose installations are created to be Instagrammable.

Yet pink isn’t everything. In 2013, a company called Curalate studied which Instagram colours had more chance of attracting ‘likes’. The winner? Bright images dominated by blue outperformed those with high concentrations of red and orange by 24%. Maybe the popularity of Instagram rosé pictures owes as much to the swimming pools and the Mediterranean skies in the backdrop as to the wine.

Thinking blue
In 2015, six young entrepreneurs from the Basque region of Spain launched a sweet, simple wine product called Gik, whose electric-blue colour comes from indigo dye along with pigments found in grape skins. It sold over 100,000 bottles internationally in the first year - and kicked off a wave of imitation.

Unfortunately for the founders, Gik violated Spain’s wine laws, according to the New York Times. They were fined and had to remove the name ‘blue wine’ from the labels.

Other producers call their products 'wine based', or are simply not aware of the issue. Jan Damman of Holland’s Retail24 claims they can sell their recently launched blue Chardonnay as wine because it “has nothing but the grapes”, and derives its colour from grape skin pigment. “We sold it quite well in Belgium and Holland last year,” he says, adding that younger consumers like using it with mixed drinks. Such producers may face challenges, however, as the EU's definition of 'wine' is that it's "a product obtained exclusively from the total or partial alcoholic fermentation of fresh grapes, whether or not crushed, or of grape must".

Legal issues aside, these drinks are proliferating, as a quick Google search will show.

Fad or trend?
Wine has always had its gimmicks, whether it’s adding gold flakes or creating pre-packaged wine cocktails. Mostly, such innovations either never spread very far, or disappear completely. In the Instagram age, however, all bets are off, and #bluewine could be the next big hashtag.

In the meantime, the hottest food trend on Instagram right now is purple food, from iced donuts to ice cream to cakes made with purple food dye. For the first producer to produce a bright-purple wine? The social media door is wide open.
Felicity Carter

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