In summer 2016, the internet lost its mind over "blue wine," then a brand-new, brightly hued product by the Spanish company Gik. After the media splash, U.S. wine drinkers pre-ordered more than 30,000 bottles through Gik's website — but the neon-blue, chilled sweet white wine never shipped stateside. Now, Gik announces it's finally coming to the U.S. (in stores in Miami, Boston, and Texas) after weathering a regulatory controversy that resulted in the lengthy delay.
The six-person team behind Gik, all in their early twenties, pushed boundaries with their idea: They mixed the must, aka the fruit juice, of white and red grapes from vineyards in La Rioja, Zaragoza, León, and Castilla-La Mancha with two different natural substances — indigo dye and anthocyanin, a pigment found on grape skin — to turn it blue. The wine took two years to develop and, after a pilot trial in Spain in 2015, the bottles hit European market one year later.
But in early 2017, inspectors were anonymously alerted to the fact that Gik violated a Spanish regulation that dictates only red or white wine can be sold in the local market. As a result, the Gik team was fined €3,000 by the Spanish government (the initial fine, according to co-founder Aritz López, would have been between €30,000 and €45,000, though the publicity surrounding a Change.org petition resulted in the smaller amount). More crucially, though, Gik had to stop labeling its product as wine; to adhere to regulations, the labels now call the drink's composition "99% wine and 1% grape must."
"It's unfair, because Gik is 100 percent grapes," López says now. In Spain, Gik is now sold under the "Other Alcoholic Beverages" category.
But Lopez states Gik will hit America as blue wine. "Depending on the state, the process is different and also a little slower," he says. The start-up company worked with several local importers (one for each state) to represent Gik before the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. "They helped us to get the Certificate of Label Approval (COLA), and all licenses for our manufacturing process and ingredients," López says, all in effort of getting the word "wine" on the label.
According to Anibal Vera Tudela, CEO of ProSource Export LLC, which will import Gik to Florida, the process has taken over three months in his state. "We already have all the permits and licenses, and the only pending is to finalize the process in TTB [Tax and Trade Bureau] for the authorization for the label," he explains. "Fortunately we are already in the final phase."
After the initial U.S. launch, the team hopes to target New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Washington, and soon California and Nevada. "Luckily, in the U.S., legislation embraces new and innovative products and is not as restrictive and anchored in the past as in Spain," López says. "So we are confident [we can expand] quite fast."
Meanwhile, in his native country, the team has launched an online petition to rally support. "The reception was very good, but it has had no effect on the laws. Maybe they are considering including a category for a product like Gik, but at the moment it has not been so," López explains.
Of the controversy that surrounded the wine in Europe, López says "Our intention has never been to offend. We just try to bring this world closer to young people like us. There must be room for everything. For us, Gik is not just a blue wine, but a revolution in the world of wine."