Are Wine Alternatives a Segment to Explore? Acid League Believes So

Who said you need to sell wine to offer a wine club?

Toronto-based food and beverage maker Acid League, which is known for vinegars, condiments, spices and other specialty foods, recently debuted three wine alternatives that are sold directly to consumers. 

The products were derived from Acid League’s diverse lineup of vinegars, which include unique ingredients and go beyond the usual apple cider, white wine and balsamic types that line your grocery store shelves.

“It’s not about marketing the product itself, but the different experience you’re getting from wine proxies compared to other wine alternatives,” said co-founder Scott Friedmann. “They’re not wines that have been stripped of alcohol; they’re layered, complex blends of unique ingredients that create a beverage that’s an experience all on their own.”

Friedmann said his company saw a business opportunity that led to the creation of the wine proxies that are available through Acid League’s new wine club.

“Conventional non-alcoholic wines are made by stripping the alcohol out of wine, and usually cheap bulk wine at that, which ends up tasting next-to nothing like the real thing because they’re sweet, lack complexity and don’t pair well with food,” Friedmann said. “As the popularity of low- and no-alcoholic beverages continue to grow, we saw an opportunity to create something new and different with wine proxies. 

“There are plenty of non-alcoholic spirits and craft beers, but nobody is really addressing wine. Restaurants are limited to serving non-alcoholic cocktails with meals, but drinkers don’t typically have cocktails with their food — they have wine. So instead of dealcoholized wine, we craft layered blends of juices, teas, spices, bitters, and more to create a new type of beverage that looks, feels and drinks like wine but doesn’t have alcohol. They have acidity, texture, tannin, and spice, and pair really well with food, just like traditional wine does.”

Because the products are non-alcoholic, Acid League is not limited by alcohol regulations.

“We could live on the shelves of any number of stores but wine retailers and restaurants obviously remain a natural fit as well,” Friedmann said. 

The company markets its wine club to non-drinkers, casual drinkers or people simply looking for something new to try.

Through its new club, Acid League is offering three unique, rotating bottles per month, launching with Blanc Slate, a take on white wine that pays homage to Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc; Cuvée Zero, a French-red-inspired beverage, and a play on orange wine, Zest Contact. Orders, which begin shipping this month, are $60 per month with a subscription or $70 for one month without a subscription, with additional availability to follow throughout 2021. 

Future proxies in the line are set to include takes on saké, Gewürztraminer, Champagne, rosé, and big, bold reds.

Acid League plans to make versions of its products for sale in restaurants and stores later this year. When it makes that move, it won’t face the obstacles that present themselves to alcoholic beverage makers.

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