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Building On ChocoVine’s Success, Clever Imports Will Launch New Fruit-Cream Wine

February 7, 2012

Clever Imports, the Florida-based creator of the ChocoVine chocolate wine brand, is launching a new brand called VineSmoothie—a French Chardonnay-based fruit-cream wine. VineSmoothie will hit the shelves in April and retail at around $10, the same price as ChocoVine. The 14%-abv brand will start with four flavors: Peach, Berry, Pineapple Coconut and Strawberry.

“We think this fruit-cream wine profile can be bigger than chocolate wine,” says Steven Katz, CEO of Clever Imports, who is targeting 250,000 cases for VineSmoothie in its first 12 months on the market.

Both VineSmoothie and ChocoVine are produced and majority owned by the Netherlands’ De Kuyper Royal Distillers, which distributes ChocoVine in 40 countries worldwide. In the U.S., ChocoVine was briefly handled by The Wine Group last year but is now back under Clever Imports’ wing. “It was an amicable split,” Katz says. “We just found there were expectations on both sides that wouldn’t be able to be met.”

Despite last year’s marketer switch, ChocoVine grew by 22% to 550,000 cases last year, building on its strong growth from 2010. After successfully focusing on the grocery trade, Katz now aims to expand ChocoVine on-premise in 2012.

“We market ChocoVine to the on-premise as a cocktail that stands on its own—especially the Espresso flavor,” says Katz. ChocoVine’s other flavors include Original, Raspberry and Whipped Cream. “We’re suggesting restaurants and bars add vodka to make their Espresso Martinis. And for restaurants with only wine and beer licenses, ChocoVine can offer a spirits-style experience, on the rocks.”

As ChocoVine looks to raise its on-premise profile, competition is starting to intensify in the chocolate-cream wine segment. White Rock Distilleries has its new Chocolate Valley Vines label, and E&J Gallo is test-marketing a brand called ChocolatRouge. Both are priced roughly in line with ChocoVine. Katz distinguishes between cream-driven and wine-driven versions of chocolate wine, and doesn’t consider wine-driven brands like Precept Wines’ Chocolate Shop to be direct competition for ChocoVine.

“The fact that serious players like Gallo and White Rock are getting into chocolate-cream wine shows the broad acceptance the category has attained among distributors and consumers,” Katz says. “We’re confident that it’s now time to branch out with VineSmoothie.”

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