A more casual sparkling wine

Handsome Brut is trying to shake off the category's feminine association to pop with men.
Handsome Brut Bottles Row

There’s a new sparkling wine about town adorned with a trilby-hat wearing man of mystery.

In a play to dress-down the sparkling wine category, which people generally associate with special occasions, Toronto-based branding agency Goods & Services and Beamsville, ON-based Angels Gate Winery have formed a partnership to produce a new label – Handsome Brut.

The winery and agency believe “people underestimate the flexibility of sparkling wine” and see an opportunity to associate sparkling with more everyday occasions. For instance, it goes surprisingly well with popcorn, says AJ McLaughlin, VP sales and marketing for Angels Gate, along with poultry and pork and can be paired with most things people eat while drinking beer or soda.

That starts with the packaging, which traditionally for the category features gold foils and green bottles, Handsome Brut is in a dark bottle with a black label and devoid of foil, to give it a casual appearance, says Sue McCluskey, partner at Goods & Services.

The brand also targets men by tackling head-on their perception that sparkling is a feminine drink, McCluskey says. For instance, ahead of opening night for the NHL it released a video called “Hockey Brut” that encourages people to swap their beer for a bottle of the bubbly. The winery and agency have also given the bubbly a cheeky persona reminiscent of recent campaigns from beer brands such as Shock Top or Rickard’s.

The partnership behind the brand is fairly unique. Rather than a traditional client-agency relationship, Goods & Services and Angels Gate have partnered, putting equal investment into the product.

With a limited marketing budget, they have embarked on a social media campaign that includes several YouTube videos, and have been selling and sampling at the Farm City Farmers Market at Bathurst and Niagara Streets in Toronto’s West end. They have also been running a T-shirt giveaway for people that upload a photo to the Handsome Brut website of how they would like to enjoy the beverage.

McLaughlin says both sales and distribution have been growing since it first hit shelves at the LCBO in September and the winery has been fielding calls from people asking about the product for functions, he says.

Ar $24.99, the price point, like the branding, is also strategic, adds McLaughlin, noting that most sparkling wines are either priced above $50 or under $20.

“There’s a fairly large gap for the sparkling wine consumer,” he says. “Our price point helps to define that middle ground.”