Five years ago, a group of university students in Spain’s Basque Country decided they wanted to shake up a sector – any sector – but preferably one to do with food or drink.
So Imanol, Inigo, Gorka, Aritz and Taig picked the most traditional of them all – and created blue wine, one of several innovations in a deeply conservative industry.
After two years of research at the University of the Basque Country with the help of in-house, professional chemical engineers and an outside centre for food innovation, they launched their company Gik Live! in 2015.
It sold 30,000 bottles in its first year and close to 500,000 in 2017.
The young company now exports to 21 countries, the US being its main market and wine-loving France its second.
From five rookie entrepreneurs, the company has grown to 12 employees.
“We understand that for many people wine is something sacred that mustn’t be changed,” says Irish-Basque co-founder Taig Mac Carthy, standing at a bar in the company office in Portugalete, a northern town near Bilbao.
“But we like to change things and we’re not afraid to try,” he adds.
One look at a glass of blue wine can be enough to send sommeliers scooting.
Electric blue in colour, Gik Blue is made in several wineries in Spain following the traditional winemaking process.
As well as being sold online, some bars, restaurants and shops in Spain sell it.
The recipe? Mix a lot of white wine with a smaller amount of red wine, and a tiny bit of must, or freshly-crushed grape juice.
The blue colour is obtained via a mix of “nature and technology” using two pigments – anthocyanin, found in the skin of red grapes, and indigo carmine.
The company won’t divulge any more of what they say is their “industrial secret.”
Gik Live used to use sugar substitutes but now adds dessert wine instead to get a sweet taste.
Other brands have followed suit in Spain including a blue sparkling cava, and the company has created other types.
There is red wine infused with Earl Grey tea, white wine infused with Japanese Sencha tea, or spicy red wine named “Bastarde.”
Prices online range roughly from €11 to €13 ($13 to $15) a bottle, while clients are usually aged 25 to 45, men and women alike, the company says.