Creating a lower alcohol alternative to wine

Like most people, I’m not about hangovers.

I am about enjoying a drink with friends, or over a delicious meal.

But if you have a fairly low tolerance to alcohol, or don’t enjoy its excessive effects, then you’re pretty much out of luck when it comes to high quality alternatives.

It seems strange to me that while the evidence is crystal-clear that we have to reduce our alcohol intake for the sake of our physical and mental health, the ABV of wines across the market is increasing on average.

Grown Drinks is a different offering. 

My mission with Grown is to give people great taste, complex flavours and beautiful design, all with at least half the alcohol and calorie content of your typical wine.

The idea for Grown came to me while on holiday with friends in Biarritz in August 2020. One evening we were at a clifftop bar, enjoying tapas and rosé. It was a magic setting, the sun going down over a glassy Atlantic, and we were all relieved to be together again after several months of Covid lockdowns. 

The perfect occasion for sharing a few bottles of wine. But with most wines in the 12%+ category, it got me wondering: where are the lower alcohol wine options?

The thought was still with me the next morning, as we made our way down to the beach. Taking my first dip in the sea with friends, I wondered aloud if there were any good lower-alcohol wines available, and if not traditional wines, how about dry fruit wines that could compensate for the effect of less alcohol on your palate with their additional flavour combinations?

Beach in Biarritz

Back home in the UK, after doing some research, I couldn’t find what I was looking for. So I decided to set up shop for myself. I’ve always had a passion for healthy living, matched by my love for great tasting drinks.

I ordered some wine-making kits and a few cartons of natural fruit juice, yeast and other essentials, to see if I could come up with a drink with an interesting flavour profile. Unsurprisingly, with no prior knowledge or experience in wine making, my experiments were a disaster. They certainly bubbled away and looked like they were doing all the right things, but they tasted pretty bad, not to mention mildly dangerous.

I knew then I needed a winery to help me come up with a proof of concept. If I could find one willing to experiment and take a few risks, maybe we could create a new type of drink.

It’s exciting, trying to do something new and original. Even if you have no idea if you’ll fall on your face. Probably that’s part of the thrill.

But here’s the problem: wine is big business, and it’s on the whole pretty traditional. The barriers to entry are massive.

So I was looking for a very rare thing. A winery that didn’t fit the traditional mould, and was willing to work with a complete outsider to the industry. 

Fortunately, I found what I was looking for, but as it turned out, that was only the beginning of an eleven month journey, full of highs and lows, dead ends and U-turns. But with the right mindset, there's usually a solution to every problem, and I'll be sharing everything I've learnt about bringing a new drink to market, next time.

Chris Croissant, Founder & CEO