Flavorful Pairings and Pours

Corporate food and restaurant brands have been jumping on the bandwagon—along with properties of all sorts—when it comes to collaborating on limited-edition wine varieties. In the most recent cases, the flavors of the branded foods are infused into the wine itself, usually in a subtle manner that is intended to taste good but is attention-getting due to the unusual combination of ingredients. In other, slightly older examples, a wine, sometimes created specifically for the promotion, is paired with the branded food, with the latter often having a flavor profile not generally associated with wine. In all cases, the initiatives are more about raising awareness than producing a desirable vintage, but they tend to sell out and occasionally generate some positive reviews.

Four recent examples:

  • In December of 2021, Mondelez and its Oreo Thins brand paired with Barefoot Wines for a limited red blend that included the chocolate and cream flavors associated with the cookie brand, along with notes of blackberry, oak, and dark cherries. The blend was developed to pair with the original treat, as well as offering a hint of Oreo Thin in the taste of the wine itself. A box with two bottles of the blend and a pack of Oreo Thins was sold through Barefoot’s website for $24.99.
  • In October, Kraft’s Grey Poupon brand released La Moutarde Vin, a white developed with The Wine Foundry. The wine was a Napa Valley Viognier 2020 with mustard seeds and honeysuckle, described as having spice, citrus, and floral notes. (Viognier wine is a main ingredient in Grey Poupon mustard.) The company noted that the wine paired well with lunches such as croque monsieur, honey dijon melts, mushroom chicken in dijon wine sauce, and dijon maple-glazed salmon, all featuring Grey Poupon. Priced at $30, the wine sold out on a dedicated Grey Poupon Wine website on its first day of availability.
  • In September 2020, Taco Bell entered the wine space with its Jalapeño Noir, developed with Queenston Mile Vineyard in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada. It was available in select Taco Bell locations in the Canadian cities of Toronto and Hamilton and on the chain’s website. The first run of 33 cases (with three different labels for collectibility) sold out in 11 minutes at a price of C$24, or about $19 in U.S. currency. The 2018 pinot noir, which was described as an earthy red with notes of strawberry, cherry, and beetroot, was developed to complement and promote Taco Bell’s relaunch of its Toasted Cheesy Chalupa menu item but did not contain peppers or any chalupa flavors or ingredients. The vineyard saw the promotion as a way to introduce a wider swath of consumers to wine.
  • Kellogg’s Cheez-Its brand entered the wine space in 2019, when it developed its first wine-and-Cheez-It box with House Wine. Its ventures in this sector have been slightly different from the examples above, as no promotion-specific wines have been developed. The first iteration paired Original Cheez-Its and House Wine Original Red Blend, packaged together in the same box, while the second featured Cheez-It White Cheddar and House Wine Rosé. The third initiative, in September 2021—a year that marked the brand’s 100th anniversary—was with Usual Wines. The Cheez-It x Usual Wines “So Extra” Toasty Experience, available at the Cheez-It HQ website, included a four-flavor “flight” of Toasty Cheez-Its, packaged with a collectible Cheez-Itennial Cracker Coupe champagne glass-and-cracker bowl. Unlike in the two previous years, the wine itself was a separate purchase; the box included a 20% off coupon for a 12- or 24-pack of glass-sized bottles of Brut, or a pack containing a mix of Red, Rosé, and Brut, available on Usual Wines’ website.

Wine-and-IP pairings of all kinds continue to proliferate, as do unexpected collaborations between food and beverage items with seemingly incompatible flavors, as in the ice cream and popcorn categories. Given the continued strength of both trends, it seems likely that we will see at least a few more surprising pairings of food brands and wine vintages as time goes on.

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