Photo by @drinkramona via Instagram

Pretty, pretty cool

Mike Pomranz
June 27, 2018

Wine coolers have always been reliant on strong advertising. First, these mixes of wine and juice exist in a bit of an alcohol no man’s land. Booze has its big three—beer, wine, and spirits—and everyone else from cider to mead to wine coolers inherently fights an uphill battle for attention. Second, by their very nature, wine coolers are built to pander: a lighter, fruitier, easier drinking alternative to wine’s intensity and strength. That’s not to say wine coolers can’t be wonderful, but third, because of the way they are created, these “weaker” drinks also find themselves having to prove they’re worthy of including the word “wine” in their name.

So, for those of us who remember America’s first wine cooler explosion in the ‘80s, one may likely recall the marketing more than the forgettable, fizzy beverages themselves (most of which were comparable to fruity soft drinks you can still find in the non-alcoholic section of a grocery store). The deadpan television spots of Bartles & James, with their memorable “Thank you for your support” signoff, are some of the most iconic commercials of the ‘80s—whether you ever drank a wine cooler or not. Meanwhile, all of the major wine cooler brands of the era featured distinctive bottles that were visually alluring in their own right.

Now, according to the Huffington Post, wine coolers are making a comeback, and though the specifics might be different, the tricks are all the same. The trendy clear bottles of the decades past have been replaced by the booze world’s hip packaging du jour, the can. And instead of paying big bucks for TV time featuring the likes of Bruce Willis, nowadays, modern wine cooler brands are focusing their attention to where celebrities are doing more of their influencing: social media—especially Instagram.

“Instagram’s been huge for us and, I think, everybody in this category,” Josh Rosenstein, founder of Hoxie Spritzer, told HuffPo. Billed as “the dry wine spritzer,” Rosenstein’s wine coolers also feature names that tip their hat to the foodie world like Lemon Linden Blanc and Lemon Ginger Rosé. “I wouldn’t say it levels the playing field, but when we post something, we have just as much of a chance of reaching somebody as one of the bigger companies that has significantly more marketing dollars behind their stuff.”

Beyond being trendy in their own right, the switch to cans also apparently plays into the push for Instagram appeal. “Consumers love to showcase where they take the cans,” Kyna Williams, director of marketing for Union Wine, producer of the brand Underwood which cans both wine and wine coolers, told the news site. “We’ve seen Underwood cans on top of mountains, on chairlifts and even in the bathtub! These are definitely ‘Instagram worthy’ moments, and for us, it emphasizes the portability and efficiency of the cans... The cans truly allow consumers to cheers the everyday, whatever that moment is, and social media has served as the perfect platform to emphasize that.”

HuffPo also points out that wine coolers have been attempting to jump on another modern beverage trend: a renewed dedication to craft and quality. For instance, Ramona, another wine cooler brand, was founded by Jordan Salcito, whose resume includes Beverage Birector at Momofuku and Sommelier at Eleven Madison Park. But even then, wine coolers still have to tackle that first fight of stepping out from the shadows of beer and wine. Once again, Instagram to the rescue.

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