Vinni: ‘Wine-based refreshment’, or what not to drink on New Year’s Eve

vinni

My friends and I often joke that much of the wine lining supermarket shelves is not actually wine, but instead a wine-like drink of industrial-chemical origins, not unlike that aerosol cheese sold in America.

All joking aside, “wine-like drink” is an often useful descriptor for blasphemies like Echo Falls, Yellowtail and Blossom Hill, much as their makers might argue otherwise.

I didn’t think the Australians would go out and up the ante by actually launching a product that boasts this very fact. But then again the Aussies have never really be known for their subtlety, so perhaps they should be applauded for being brash enough to come up with something called Vinni.

With the phrase “wine based  refreshment” printed in large letters across its label, there is no doubting that this is a) not trying to fool anyone into believing it is a proper wine and b) going to taste awful.

It first appeared in shops in October 2012 and has been positioned to compete with beer and cider and, they say, attract a younger audience to wine drinks.

I’m not so sure they’ll achieve this. First, think for a moment what this ‘younger audience’ is actually like when it comes to their preferred alcoholic drinks. On any UK high street on any given Friday night and you will see Vinni’s target market in action; for the most part their preferences are based on the ease with which the drink goes down their gullet and how cheaply this can be achieved.

The people who conjured up this concoction were likely hoping to capture that young, festival-going crowd that relaxes in the park on a sunny day with a few drinks in hand, but the actual group that might find Vinni appealing are the types who drink abominations like WKD because it is sweet and laden with booze.

Except there is a problem. Vinni is not only awful (more on this later) but also fairly expensive for what it is. It costs £3.66 a bottle from Tesco.

So while Vinni might have been born out of good intentions – of drawing more people to wine and away from alcopops and cheap beer – in order for it to be successful it ought to at least taste like it might be made from wine and be good value for money.

Except it doesn’t. There I was on New Years’ Eve, getting ready to head to a house party when the idea popped into my head that I should try this drink. After several sniffs and a few sips, I couldn’t pick up any hint of wine except for a vaguely sweet and faint grape aroma, although it did give me an unsettled stomach.

This doesn’t surprise me. A few years ago it became fashionable to drink cider over ice in a pint glass – think Magners or Bulmers – because it was refreshing and easy to guzzle at times when all you wanted was something cold, wet and full of alcohol. Unlike more serious ciders, it was light and fruity. Perfect, then, for people who like the idea of drinking cider but don’t actually like the way it tastes.

Vinni achieves the same thing, it seems, by promising to be, as the label says, “fresh & fruity”.

It was because of those two words I felt a swell of embarrassment consume when I bought this drink from my local Tesco outlet. In order to avoid looking silly in the event I bumped into someone I knew, I didn’t put it in my basket until the moment before I made a dash for the cashier. I was safe from that point on, but I’m convinced the security guard gave me a knowing smirk.

And why wouldn’t ge? Here was a 30-something man buying a drink that no adult should ever drink, one that tastes sweet and only vaguely grapey, bearing almost no resemblance to wine or any other serious alcoholic beverage.

There are many things I’d rather have experienced than drink Vinni. If fact I’d rather have had  a bottle of Mateus Rosé my throat slit and my mouth concreted in, as my friend Trev recommended.

To put the price of Vinni into perspective, it’s possible to pay £2 or less for a bottle of good real ale that is bound to offer infinitely more enjoyment. But, then again, no one who drinks real ale is likely to buy something like Vinni unless they a) picked up the wrong bottle by accident or b) thought it might be worth blogging about.

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8 thoughts on “Vinni: ‘Wine-based refreshment’, or what not to drink on New Year’s Eve

  1. I’d rather have had a bottle of Mateus Rose…………..?

    On reflection should that have not read ” I’d rather have had my throat slit and my mouth concreted in ”

    When one starts attributing wine qualities and character to THAT STUFF! however faint the praise, surely stronger language is called for.

  2. Geordie, we often agree, but on this occason, your reference to Mateus gives the game away. Mateus was hugely successful from its launch around 70 years ago precisely because it doesn’t taste like wine. Prosecco beats Cava hands down with consumers because it tastes a lot less winey. You say that Vinni tastes “sweet and only vaguely grapey, bearing almost no resemblance to wine or any other serious alcoholic beverage”, but that’s the point. And the appeal. I’ll declare an interest here, having done some research and consultancy on the concept and packaging for McGuigan, the company behind i, and a lot more on a product you’d absolutely hate called Keep Light – a fruit-flavoured, low alc wine cocktail.

    We consumer tested it on a set of students alongside a number of other drinks and the two styles they liked best were Rekorderlig, fruit flavoured cider and one of the Keep Lights which they also misidentified as cider.

    This all probably reads like a missive from a McDonalds or KFC spokesman, but it’s intended as a statement of fact. You may not have liked Vinni – just as you think Yellowtail a “blasphemy”, but it’s not aimed at you. France is still a Yellowtail-free place where wine still tastes like wine. And where the French are turning away from it in their millions. 38% of the French no longer drink wine. Ever. And for women, the figure is 50%.

    What do they drink? Grapefruit-flavoured wine (and other similar 8-10% efforts) whose success has been HUGE.

    I may not choose to drink Vinni or Mateus on New Year’s Eve, and nor I suspect will most of your other readers, but there are lots of movies we might all agree that we don’t want to go and see either. Might I ask what kind of <5% drink you would want to buy in a supermarket?

    I also happen to think that latte is an abomination that has nothing to do with coffee, and I can probably line up millions of Italian men who'd agree with me 100% But if it gives pleasure to the people queuing up to pay their £3 in Starbucks, so be it.

  3. All very good points. I don’t deny there is a target market for all of these things that should be respected. But none of this will prevent me from offering up my opinion of something. I buy it, I drink it, I write what I think about it. The fact I don’t like it, or that I think it is an abomination or even a blasphemy, does not mean that I don’t understand its commercial importance or the fact that millions of people might adore it. For example, millions of people eat cheap white bread. It’s become a consumer staple that we can’t deny serves a market that wants it. Despite its success, I personally don’t like it and would not hesitate to say publicly that I’d rather eat styrofoam than buy a loaf of nasty white bread.

    As for your question, if I were going to buy a drink with less than 5 per cent alcohol, I would buy beer. I know plenty of ‘premium lagers’ are slightly more than 5 per cent, but I think it’s close enough.

    When I was a student, most people drank beer, cider – the Canadian brand known as Grower’s (http://www.growerscider.com/about) was popular – or mixed drinks. A few people drank the early versions of alcopops. A popular one in Canada was Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Was anyone interested in wine? People drank it, but few really seemed to care. Wine was something that became popular when they matured and they could no longer stomach the sweeter drinks that younger people tend to like.

    • All fair points Geordie, and I wholly agree re “nasty” white bread. And, of course, we all choose what we want to write about, but I think there’s a virtue in judging things on the basis of what they are trying to achieve – for the target audience. In other words, looking for good examples of sliced white bread, rather than imply that the only solution for a would-be sandwich maker is to buy wholemeal or to slice their own white loaf.

      Like you, I’d opt for the beer, but that says something about us. As I’ve said elsewhere, the music and movie reviewers I most enjoy are the ones who embrace everything – from Bergman to Spiderman and from Radiohead to Rihanna – and look at them on a fit-for-purpose basis.

      • Robert, it sounds as if you are suggesting that opinions should not be voiced unless they in some fashion favor the subject that is being reviewed. ??

      • Very true. And drinks these days aren’t created out of thin air on a wing and a prayer. But it wouldn’t have been nearly as amusing to write it in that fashion. I like to exercise a little artistic licence now and again. 😉

        As someone who has consumed virtually every type of alcohlic drink out there – from the cheap alcopops and white zinfandels to aged single malt whisky and investment-grade claret – I appreciate that everything serves a purpose. And I appreciate that, even if I don’t like it, there is someone out there who might adore it.

        I used to be one of those people who bought Yellow Tail or wine brands similar to it, but with a little bit of knowledge and a change of tastes, I find it difficult to swallow these days. Many of my non-wine-obsessed friends simply buy wines of that sort because it’s a familiar brand that is drinkable – not because they actually like it. Their decision is usually a result of not knowing what to buy in the first place.

        That all said, if I find myself in a store looking for a serviceable bottle of wine, I wouldn’t necessarily turn my nose up at the big brands like Jacob’s Creek if I needed something and the options were limited.

  4. No Renee, far from it. My favourite critics in other fields throw around lots of brickbats (as do I). I’m merely against writing off entire sectors because they don’t happen to suit your taste. If no wine writer ever takes a serious, considered look at Yellowtail etc, it’s hardly surprising that the millions of people who enjoy drinking those products imagine that the critics exist on another planet. The late great Roger Ebert reviewed everything. And gave Meet the Fockers ** and Spiderman **** as I recall. I enjoy the Saturday review page in the FT and reading reviews of both Bartok and Britney.

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