Blue Wine Is Real But Here's Why It's Making People Angry

Blue Wine Is Real But Here's Why It's Making People Angry

Fans and winemakers are singing the blue wine blues.

By Megan Eileen McDonough

Forget the forthcoming inauguration; there’s a new battle between red and blue, and this time it involves wine.

Quick refresher. Back in 2015 a group of twenty-something Spanish entrepreneurs, collectively called Gik, threw the winery world into a tizzy with their creation of blue wine. As outlandish as it might sound, the company is clearly onto something, with more than 90,000 bottles purchased to date. Naturally, their main market is Spain but Gik has also sold in more than two dozen other countries around the world.

That said, it seems that Gik has run into, well, a hiccup of sorts. Last week, the group disclosed details of the battle they've been fighting with Spanish lawmakers about whether their product is actually "wine." In Spain, the law holds that only red, white or rosé wines actually count as wine. So, if Gik wants to stick around Spain, they’ll have to re-brand and label themselves as another type of alcoholic drink. How did the Gik team take the news? No bueno.

In all fairness, Gik has a point. Blue wine is made solely from grapes, just like red, white and rosé wines. The difference in color comes from anthocyanin, which is found in red grapes, and indigotin, from woad plants; both are organic pigments and only add color, but have no impact on the flavor. Gik founders argue that because of that, they should still be able to label their blue bottles as wine.

According to Food52 writer Mayukh Sen, who spoke with Gik co-founder Aritz López, the company’s legal trouble all started when “an anonymous tipster alerted two Spanish inspectors to the fact that this blue wine violates a regulation introduced in 2013, which dictates that wines must either be red or white to be sold as such in markets.” Why this tipster is so anti-blue wine, no one knows.

At first, Gik attempted to comply with the suddenly enforced regulation by changing their label to state that Gik is 99 percent wine and 1 percent grape, even though their product is actually 100 percent wine. That, on top of a hefty fine resulting in team layoffs, has put added pressure on the company. They’ve also not been able to continue expansion to other countries, including the United States, where wine laws are considerably more lenient.

While it might seem like Spanish officials have it out for Gik, they’re not the only company facing some serious backlash. As explained on Food52, “there were reports that Viñedos Amaya, a winemaker from the region of El Bierzo, marketed its own rainbow-colored 'technowine' for a few months until it was told last October that the product defied Spanish law. It’s now called a Rainbow Drink, 'made with wine and in any color you wish.'"

According to López, the controversy is rooted in Spain’s refusal to acknowledge the problems within the country’s wine industry. For example, López notes that, in addition to Spain’s resistance to innovation, thousands of hectares of wine are wasted each year, with a few giants dominating the industry.

Most recently, Gik launched a petition to rally support. So, if you’re among the thousands of people who have pre-ordered Gik in the States, here’s your fighting chance. Granted, their Twitter hashtag of “FreedomofColor” is probably a poor choice of words. To date, they have 25 supporters.

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