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Wine is the New Vodka: How Wine-Based Liquor is Taking Over the Industry

Published onApr 05, 2016
Wine is the New Vodka: How Wine-Based Liquor is Taking Over the Industry

Regulations limiting the quantity of restaurants and bars with liquor licenses can make the commercial sale of alcoholic beverages a very tedious and expensive endeavor. The cost of a license to sell distilled liquor can be up to 382 times the cost of a license to serve beer and wine. As of late, smaller restaurants, unable to foot the bill of serving distilled liquor, have found a way around this licensing dilemma.

Companies like Premium Blend have created a product that fits the needs of these restaurateurs. In their own words, Premium Blend “captures the distinct flavors of your favorite liquors and liqueurs,” offering wine-based alternatives to beverages such as whisky, gin, vodka, rum, tequila, triple-sec, amaretto, coffee liqueur, and peach or peppermint schnapps. To cater to the diverse national market, Premium Blend’s products vary in alcohol content to meet the regulations of different states.  Although Premium Blends is one of the more popular brands of wine-based liquor, other companies, like Toddy Blends and Liquid Assets have found success selling similar products.

In addition to finding this innovative way around gaining a liquor license, in some states, wine-based liquor is not subject to open container laws. Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia have statutes that allow patrons to remove partially consumed bottles of wine from restaurants. This means that consumers in most states can walk around with their favorite beverage — be it a margarita, a mojito, or a giant tropical daiquiri—so long as the beverage contains only wine-based alcohol.

In some respects, this innovation has leveled the playing field, giving small businesses an equal shot at selling alcoholic beverages. On the other hand, it is only a matter of time before consumers realize the substantial differences between distilled and wine-based liquors. First, wine-based alternatives can hold between 18-38% less alcohol content than their traditional counterparts. While this might be a deal-breaker for college students and those looking for a stiff drink after a long day, there are many benefits of drinking wine-based liquor as well. These beverages contain less sugar per serving, and consumers can enjoy several glasses of their favorite drinks without fear of waking up with a massive hangover.

As the lines are blurred between beverages containing wine-based liquor and those containing distilled liquor, exclusive licenses to sell the latter will become increasingly obsolete. It is only a matter of time before state laws catch up with this shift in the market, and consumer behavior shifts accordingly. In the meantime, companies like Premium Blend, Toddy Blends, and Liquid Assets are becoming increasingly popular and the restaurants that purchase these products have free reign to pass off wine-based liquor for consumer favorites with little-to-no disclosure requirements.

Candice Diah is a second-year law student at Wake Forest University School of Law. Her hometown is Nassau, Bahamas, where she worked in the compliance department of a financial advising firm. She holds a Bachelor of Science in International Business and Marketing from the University of Tampa and studied Business and Luxury Brand Management at The American Business School of Paris in Paris, France. She is passionate about both business and international law. 

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