The 72nd annual WSWA (Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America) convention was held April 12-15, 2015 at Grande Lakes Orlando, Florida. This year there was an abundance of hot new innovative brands at the event, as well as the more vetted brands we all know and love. In addition to the exposition, WSWA hosted an excellent keynote. Just off his recent NCAA win, the legendary Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, or better known as “Coach K”, opened up the event on Monday. In addition to other great sessions the expo hosted great nightly events such as the Opening Night Reception and Taste of the Industry, along with many fun sponsored events like the LiDestri Spirits “Drink Pink Media Event.”
The official winners in the Call for Cocktails Mixology Competition and the Wholesaler Iron Mixologist Competition, as well as the Wine and Spirit Tasting competitions, can be found here. The winning cocktails in the mixologist competition are listed here.
Now it’s time to tell you about some hot new brands we found at the event that will be making waves in the industry this year.
Maven Cocktails is a very unique product with passionate brand owners behind it. The owners created this vodka cocktail for wine drinkers, and is also geared to the female audience. The Maven owners felt that there’s an inconsistent selection of good wines in many bars or nightclubs, so they’ve created a ready-to-drink cocktail that tastes like your favorite wines (Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir) with the drinking effects of a vodka all while taking in lower calories (just 38 calories per 1.5 fl. oz.) and catering to those who are gluten-free. The single serve bottles are stackable, re-sealable, and last much longer than your typical wine once opened.
Another product made much differently than your standard products on the market comes from Domaine LaBranche out of Quebec Canada. They are using a similar process likewise to winemakers to create maple wine and cider, all while using (not grapes!) maple and apples. The maple wine isn’t a far stretch from some wines we’ve all had, but does have a hint of maple sweetness. It is created by natural fermentation of maple water, and is designed to drink by the glass or in craft cocktails such as a “Maple spritz” or “Ski-Doo.” The ciders are more dessert-like and would serve as an excellent post-dinner treat. Their fire cider, heated in wood-fired pans, tastes like caramelized apple and is very full and creamy in texture. There’s also an Ice Cider (reminiscent of an Ice Wine) and a Sparkling Cider created from fresh pressed apples and yeast aromas. A great offering for someone looking to try something new.
Almondaire, by Bar Napkin Spirits, is an excellent crème liqueur for the lactose intolerant and gluten or vegan free population. It is also low in fat, though one would never guess. The Irish crème liqueur is a blend of chocolate, vanilla, almond, and whiskey flavors. While immensely enjoyable on its own, the brand has also created drool-worthy cocktails including a Banana Crème Pie Martini and Tiramisu Martini. This is a great addition to any bar’s portfolio with its accessibility to all diets while maintaining great taste.
Penthouse Spirits brings us Libido Libations, which has special formulas for males and females. Both are FDA approved aphrodisiacs which have different effects per the male and female bottles. Craft distilled and bottled, these come from a 174 year old Dutch distillery and are cherry flavored vodkas. The company also featured the world’s first whiskey-tequila fusion which has a forefront taste of whiskey and a bold tequila finish.
Winestar, the latest ready-to-drink wine in a can from France, offers a more premium high-end wine for a RTD can. The company uses a special technology to protect the wine from the metal ensuring taste while being a fun, easy to carry, non-breakable, recyclable single serve option for bars, outdoor events, mini bars, airlines, trains, and more. The wines come from Bordeaux, burgundy, Rhone Valley, Provence, Beaujolais, Loire, and Languedoc.
Some other standouts were the smoothness of Zodiac’s craft potato vodka, the multiple award winning Dolce Cilento Limoncello & Meloncello, and Hooghoudt’s amazing portfolio of gins along with their great history behind them.
WSWA returns to Las Vegas again next year for the 73rd annual event.