Wine lovers rejoice! There's something for everyone from the Vin(Zero) portfolio at Hill Street Beverage Co. Accessibility, enjoyment, and quality drive their passion to produce these award-winning, nonalcoholic wines with expert European winemakers. We talked with their CEO Craig Binkley, a seasoned expert in the beverage industry, about his opinion on the NA wine world and the role his business plays. Read on!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came into the NA wine world.
I’ve been in the beverage biz for almost forty years, working with major companies in a full range of both nonalcoholic and alcoholic categories all over the world. I started my Coca-Cola career in juices, and then I ran Diet Coke worldwide, so I’ve had a lot of experience in better for you brands and categories. I got into NA wine specifically through my belief in Hill Street and the mission and ethos of the company.
What are the driving principles behind Hill Street Beverage Company's brand mission? What has gotten the company to where it is now?
Our brand mission has always been around providing high quality, crafted alternatives that meet consumer needs. While alcohol is consumed and enjoyed by many, there are some who can't enjoy it, whether it be because of diet, religion, or simply the desire for moderation and balance in everyday occasions. Our products allow consumers to have those alternatives in enjoyable and tasty formats.
We heard that your wines are crafted with European grapes and expert winemakers. Can you tell us more about that process and why it's important to your brand?
For Vin(Zero) it's always been about providing the most representative and qualitative taste, flavor, and aromatics of wine as possible, just without the alcohol. For us to do that, we think of our manufacturing process like any winemaker would, with a passion for protecting the care that is put into the art of actual winemaking. We look for the highest quality grapes from European vineyards, working with winemakers with over 30 years of experience. The main thing we do differently is that we use a proprietary low-temperature vacuum de-alcoholization process, which allows our alcohol-free wines to retain the quality and taste from their wine origins vs. other products in the category that never take the step of being wine.
What should consumers look for when purchasing NA wine? What do you see in the space that should be avoided?
I would recommend looking for nonalcoholic wines that mirror what you typically look for in alcoholic wines. Similar notes and varietals backed by the craft experience that you can trust to develop alcohol-free wines that will be able to mirror that taste profile. Similarly, what you want to look out for or avoid in nonalcoholic wines are wines that are formulated more like "grape juices". These will be overly sweet and will lack the intensity and complexity of a crafted nonalcoholic wine. NA beverages are incredibly trendy right now, and there have been a ton of products that have recently launched that are hoping to capitalize on that trend but without the right product experience for consumers. We hope that discerning consumers will see the difference and that superior products will help the category grow.
We've seen a lot of NA wine producers start very small, with just one or two varietals. The breadth of your portfolio is impressive; there's something available for every type of wine drinker. Can you speak a bit to that?
Great question! The reason why we have a full portfolio of varietals is to make sure that we have something for every true wine enthusiast. Many consumers might be interested in the category, but are hesitant to try alcohol-free wines, so it's always been important to us to remove as many barriers as possible.
Which is your favorite wine from the portfolio and how do you like to best enjoy it? Do you pair it with a certain meal or foods?
I’m a Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay guy, so those tend to be the ones I turn to in our portfolio as well. I use them similarly to how I normally consume those varietals, with the Cab being more of a full-bodied flavor for heavier meals, and the Chardonnay fitting my lighter moments and foods.
Your label design stands out from what one might expect from a traditional wine label—very fun and energetic. What was the inspiration for the design and illustrations?
The ethos of Vin(Zero) has always been about positioning alcohol-free wines as accessible and appropriate for all. We created a label that reflected that uncompromising and unapologetic perspective; we wanted to inject as much personality onto the shelf as possible.
What makes you most excited when you look ahead to the future of Hill Street Beverages?
I am most looking forward to the future of a wide range of alcohol-free alternatives. The number of alternatives has grown so rapidly, and everyday more and more people are trying alcohol-free beverages for the first time as part of their more normal beverage occasions. Demand for high-quality alternatives will only continue—seeing what amazing products will come out of that is incredibly exciting.
Our motto at Boisson is seeing the Glass Half-Full. How do you think alcohol-free wine like yours allow people to see the glass half-full?
I’ve spent decades developing better-for-you alternatives, products that have added benefits to the consumer while still maintaining their great taste. We like to look at alcohol-free wines as having the ‘added benefit of being better for you’ vs. ‘the absence of something’, so I totally agree with your perspective. Vin(Zero) is definitely a glass half-full brand because of all the added benefits it brings to consumers. It is a brand for those who don't want to compromise - they want to be able to have the premium wine experience they're used to, but without the negative impacts of alcohol. Vin(Zero) does that by marrying the craftsmanship of European vineyards with a proprietary process to deliver added benefit wines. It's easy to see the glass as half-full when you're enjoying a delicious alcohol-free wine that is vegan, gluten-free and lower in calories and sugar than the alcohol equivalents.