In regards to booze and the newly legal (or, perhaps, not quite legal), here’s an unscientific profile of the wine-drinker: He’s the guy who wears those thrift-store tweed coats, needs to shave his neck beard, is insufferably literary, and chooses a cheap bottle of red over beer or a bottom-shelf well drink because that’s what Fitzgerald and Bukowski and Hemingway did. He aspires, rather pathetically, to drink like his literary heroes, because writing-wise, he can’t even manage to win the local poetry slam competition that he’ll be embarrassed to admit he not only attended but actually competed in a decade later.
Like I said, this is unscientific (and doesn’t depict anyone who might resemble the author’s younger self).
More specifically, 28 percent of Americans aged 21 to 26 report drinking wine daily, according to a 2012 report from the Wine Market Council. In France, that number is down to 17 percent for all adults, and members of the younger demographic “do not even start taking an interest in wine until their mid-to-late 20s,” says a BBC story about the drop in Gallic wine consumption.
But drinks with cola? Those are hugely popular! There’s rum and Coke, Jack and Coke, Cuba Libre (not the same as rum and Coke, people), and even drinks like a Long Island Iced Tea, which is sometimes topped off with a splash of cola. The floor of a college town bar is not only slick with beer by closing time on a Friday night, but also sticky with cola residue.
Can you see the market opportunity here? You could convince the entire college population to drink like art school kids and English majors by adding cola to wine. And that’s just what one enterprising winemaker in Bordeaux—a French region that’s second only to Champagne in its efforts to engage in brand-driven, globalized capitalism—is doing with its new product, Rouge Sucette.
In The Telegraph, Victoria Moore writes that Rouge Sucette (French for “red lollipop”), “is made from 75 per cent wine with the balance sugar, water and cola flavouring.” Unlike other sugar-heavy booze geared at young drinkers—remember Four Loko?—Rouge Sucette doesn’t ratchet up the alcohol content. The beverage clocks in at 9 percent, significantly less than the 12 percent to 15 percent range than wine usually falls in.
Unlike aberrations such as chocolate-flavored wine, the idea of combining the dark citrus, caramel-y flavor of cola with cabernet sauvignon or merlot isn’t a complete affront. Pinot noir, after all, can have a pronounced cola-like flavor and aroma without being cut with soda syrup concentrate. And in Spain, particularly in the northern, autonomous Basque region, the wine-and-cola cocktail kalimotxo (cal-ee-Mo-cho, per the New York Times) is a beloved classic. But do we really need to start putting the cola in the wine at the vineyard?
Rouge Sucette isn’t destined for the American market just yet, but with domestic companies trying to hook a segment of the younger drinking market with moscato wines, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the red lollipop make the jump to the country that gave the world Coca-Cola and Pepsi—its spiritual homeland.