Spain shows a red card to blue wine

Basque startup Gïk told that its eye-catching beverage cannot be marketed as “vino”

Wine is either white, rosé or red, but never blue. A business venture by five Basque entrepreneurs has run afoul of Spain’s winemaking industry. A complaint filed by the sector’s biggest producers has resulted in a prohibition against commercializing its blue-colored drink Gik Live as a wine. The people behind the eye-catching product say that the complaint has put sales on hold for three months while forcing them to fire two workers.

A promotional image showing Gik Live.
A promotional image showing Gik Live.
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Gïk, a startup based in the Basque town of Portugalete that aimed to “revolutionize a traditional industry with the world’s first blue wine,” has been forced to rethink its business strategy in the wake of the industry protest.

Company officials said that from now on, they will no longer be able to market their product as a blue wine, even though it is made exclusively with wine grapes (a mixture of red and white varieties) and uses organic pigments to create the blue hue.

It’s unfair, because Gïk is 100% grape. It represents something new that the sector does not want to live with

Aritz López, co-founder

Instead, the new label will not show the word wine at all, and the product will be classified under “other alcoholic beverages.”

“We’ve had to change the makeup to 99% wine and 1% grape juice in order to make it adapt to existing legislation,” said a Gïk spokesman.

“It’s unfair, because Gïk is 100% grape. It represents something new that the sector does not want to live with,” says Aritz López, one of its five creators.

The product received wide media coverage when it first came out in November, with UK broadcaster the BBC describing it as a “cross between a wine, a wine cooler and a cocktail mixer, with a mellow, sweet, slightly syrupy mouthfeel.”

Rainbow wine

There is another similar case in Spain. Viñedos Amaya, a winemaker from El Bierzo with its own vineyards, was told by a court that its colored "technowine" cannot be marketed as wine, regional daily El Diario de León reported. Instead, the company now markets a Rainbow Drink "made with wine and in any color you wish."

But all the attention also had its side effects. Two inspectors showed up at the company’s facilities in early August to analyze the characteristics of Gïk Live, which was then being marketed as a blue wine. The company said it has sold over 90,000 bottles in the domestic market.

Gïk Blue has an alcohol content of 11,5 degrees, and contains sweeteners. It pairs well “with sushi, guacamole and nachos, tzatziki, pasta carbonara and smoked salmon,” say its makers.

They also stress that the drink is regulated by the European Food Safety Authority and has all the necessary approvals.

But none of this was enough for Spain’s wine producers, who filed a complaint stating that “the term ‘blue wine’ is not included in the 17 categories of wine products” listed in 2013 industry regulations.

The company has also been slapped with a fine that it declines to disclose.

López said that “some people defend tradition and the good name of their favorite wines, but we don’t feel that we are hurting anybody. We’re just trying to bring this world closer to young people like ourselves. There should be room for everyone.”

Gïk officials also say that the Spanish Conference of Wine Regulatory Councils establishes that “diversity is one of the pillars of Spain’s wines.”

Now, the company has launched a petition on in a bid to have their product categorized as wine and to have “a fair spot in the industry.”

English version by Susana Urra.


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