Luke Hemsley talks to our researcher Peter Gray about his non-alcoholic wine brand, Wednesday’s Domaine. His fresh brand, launched in 2021, has quickly become one of the top contenders in the non-alcoholic wine space. Luke explains how he refined his offering and the challenges of launching a brand in a fast-paced emerging market. Words by Ben Franks.
Wednesday’s Domaine is a British brand that introduced two new SKUs to the UK market: the Piquant White with a base of Airen Blanco from La Mancha in Spain, and Sanguine Red, based on Tempranillo from the same region. The wines retail online directly from the producer for £37.00 for three (c. £12.34/bottle).
Earlier this year, the brand’s founder Luke Hemsley sat down with Ben Franks Wine’s Peter Gray to chat about what makes Wednesday’s Domaine different in an increasingly competitive market segment.
‘Unlike other de-alcoholised wines, we used the de-alcoholised wine as a base and combined it with natural flavours to create a beginning, middle and end,’ Luke says. ‘We work with liquid developers outside the wine industry, so they’re not necessarily bound by convetion and they’re open to testing the boundaries of what non-alcoholic wine can look, feel and taste like – but we still want it to be close to the flavour profile of wine.’
Luke Hemsley, founder of Wednesday’s Domaine.
Other competitors on the market, Luke argues, stray too far from the character of wine. Teas, spices and juices are doing a good job of educating consumers about the choice and opportunity or low and no low alternatives to wine, he concedes, but the flavour of these drinks doesn’t do as good a job of migrating wine drinkers to the category as his products may do.
Talking about how the market has responded to his brand, he accepts it is a difficult space right now. ‘The innovation in the area is admirable, but it can be confusing for the consumer,’ he says. His main challenge is getting the quality right and he shares they have experimented with lots of different grape varieties, de-alcoholisation techniques and how they can push the limits of what’s possible to create products that are enjoyable for consumers. ‘We want to build a business that is recognised for creating a great product that can be a more obvious option for consumers looking to moderate consumption or cut out alcohol.’
How does he do this in a market flooded with new products and fast paced innovation?
‘We deliberately target the midweek wine occasion. We think often about the ritual of spending time with family or friends, but being aware of what alcohol’s effects are,’ Luke explains. ‘Parents, full-time workers, and people interested in their health are key targets for us because of this. There is a ready and willing customer base for non-alc products they can consume at home, in a restaurant, or buy from their local delis. We started in London but we’re focused on expanding beyond this as well.’
Wednesday’s Domaine have recently been picked up by Graft Wine, a successful national wholesaler with an impressive portfolio, to help get the product in front of more people here in the UK.
‘At the moment the target market skews slightly older,’ Luke says, an interesting observation given the number of younger people who are growingly teetotal or drinking less often. This is another trend for Wednesday’s Domaine that supports his brand’s ability to win over wine drinkers, rather than the general non-drinker.
Pricing is a common issue with smaller non-alcoholic wine brands. Luke says this is because there’s a three stage process to Wednesday’s Domaine non-alcoholic wine with the traditional fermentation followed by de-alcoholisation and then blending with natural ingredients. This level of processing, without economies of scale, means the pricing reflects the effort that goes into producing them.
Much of the dismissive nature of buyers to non-alcoholic brands stems from poor experiences with other products. Luke suggests that tasting, sampling and good storytelling are persuading them otherwise. ‘What’s let the category and space down has been that non-alc wines don’t live up to expectations, but attitudes are changing,’ he says, ‘and stockists are starting to warm to the category. The market opportunity is definitely there – I was talking to the owner of a bottleshop who was saying there is little to no demand, and then a customer walked in and asked for non-alcoholic wine.’
Abroad, Luke believes the top markets are the US, Australia and the Norwegian and Scandinavian markets, as the respect for non-alcoholic alternatives is growing there the fastest. His next steps are to build the team so he can bring Wednesday’s Domaine to new markets and introduce a wider range that allows for new verticals and more choice under his brand.
Have you tasted Wednesday’s Domaine, or other non-alcoholic wines? Let us know who’s doing it well in the comments below.