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Les Grands Chais de France to launch wine based and sparkling wine over ice brands to the UK

Published:  26 March, 2014

French wine giant, Les Grands Chais de France, is looking to release a number of wine-based drinks, including a Merlot mixed with cola, as it looks to capitalise on the growing interest in fruit based and innovative sparkling wine products both in France and overseas.

Tim North, GCF's UK director, told at this week's ProWein, that its new wine-based products would not really be part of the main wine market, but help create a new sector that sit better alongside ciders, RTDs and single serve drinks.

"They do create a challenge to retailers as to where they put these new products. But they should not be in the wine fixture," stressed North. "We don't want anyone to confuse these products with being a real wine. They have to look different."

Part of the new range includes Merlo Cola, a blend of Merlot and cola which is already working very well in France, where it sells with an abv of 7.9%, but would go on sale in the UK at 5.5% to take advantage of the tax break, said North.

It is also introducing a Merlo Pink, a Merlot, rose blend and plans to build more products in to the range as it looks for mainstream distribution at around £3.99 a bottle in the UK.

GCF is also looking to adapt a German pear and apple wine drink, which looks like a mid-priced cider, for the UK market.

North hoped the new style of products would appeal to both those consumers who have been attracted away from wine to drink fruit flavoured ciders, and to those younger consumers who have yet to drink wine at all.

"Fruit flavoured wines are huge in France and we are looking to grow the category in the UK."

He added: "As a large group we can also see what is working in other markets and adapt them for the UK."

It is also looking to tap in to the trend of serving sparkling wine over ice with a number of new lines that will be aimed at different channels of the market.

These include Francois Montand Ice for the on-trade and Brut D'Argent Ice for the off-trade that come in an eye catching all white bottle. The Brut D'Argent Ice wine will be positioned at £9.99 and feature on-pack point of sale that makes it clear it needs to be drunk over ice with messaging such as "Drink Chardonnay On Ice". Francois Montand will be on sale in the on-trade at around £25 a bottle.

"We are currently having a soft launch in the UK but will be looking to roll it out," said North. "Initial sales have been phenomenal."

To help build trade awareness for the brands it is to hold a party during the London Wine Fair at an ice bar in London.