WTF Am I Drinking? With Ditto: Piquette
We are so super psyched to debut a series that we are, well, honestly, so super psyched about: WTF Am I Drinking?
This is a podcast + blog series born out of conversations about how literally every single one of us who enjoy craft beer, hard seltzer, cider, wine spritzers, canned cocktails, hard teas, hard kombuchas--you name it--is operating at a different level of knowledge. Some of us are connoisseurs, some of us are newbies. Some of us want to reach expert status, some of us really don’t care how the sausage, or seltzer, is made as long as it tastes good--but so we do want to know how and why a particular seltzer does indeed taste good.
WTF Am I Drinking? is an explainer series that will dive into different topics like what a certain beer or wine style is, how a hard kombucha gets made, what the difference is between a stout and a porter--things like that. It’s educational and informational but in the most fun way possible--consider it the perfect thing to do while you sip your favorite beverage. You’ll learn a thing or two, and no doubt develop a deeper appreciation for drink X, Y, or Z. Basically, we all get to geek out a little, and dish on the beverages we love.
We’re hitting the ground running with a brand we think is so exciting, Ditto. Ditto makes something called a Piquette Spritz. It’s been referred to as wine’s answer to hard seltzer, or like a cousin of wine, or any number of other comparisons, but as our Creative Lead Hannah Heath pointed out after tasting Ditto’s piquette, those labels really don’t do it justice. Ditto’s Piquette Spritz really is its own special, unique, and honestly just incredibly tasty thing. So, what exactly is it? That’s what Hannah and I get into with Ditto co-founders G.A. Vellios and Jake Schlessinger in this inaugural WTF Am I Drinking? episode.
Take a listen here, and/or read a transcribed version below of the conversation between Hannah and Courtney of TapRm and G.A. and Jake of Ditto. And tell your friends! And tell us what you think! Let’s all get talking and learning--and definitely, let’s try some Ditto. Cheers!
WTF Is a Piquette? A Conversation with Ditto
Courtney: All right. Well, thank you so much for joining us today, G.A. and Jake. We're so excited to have you and Ditto as a brand talking with us at Taproom. How are you doing today?
Jake: Thanks for having us.
G.A.: It's a good day. I can't complain. Weather is somehow still holding out. It's actually really nice here in New York. So no complaints there. And yeah, excited to have a chance to talk to you guys.
Jake: Yeah, it's a sweater weather, officially.
Hannah: I'm so excited to jump into this. When I first heard about this brand, I just had such a different idea of what a piquette spritzer was. And then when we actually sat down and all tasted it together, my mind was blown. It's one of my favorite non-beer drinks to have. So I can't wait for you all to blow everyone else's minds too.
Courtney: Yeah, this is super exciting. So I think the best thing to do then is to just dive right in. We want to hear from Ditto, from the experts here: tell us what exactly is a piquette? Would it be considered a style of wine, a varietal? Can you sort of walk us through the basics?
Jake: Sure. Yeah, so piquette is a style of wine with a really long history. In effect, it means that you're taking the grape pomace after wine is produced. Grape pomace being the skins, the seeds, the pulp, the stems. It's kind of whatever is left after wine is made, fermented, and pressed. And then, ultimately, you're taking that pomace and you're rehydrating it. So you're adding water to it, and then you're doing another fermentation on it.
Effectively, we like to describe it as wine's cousin, really.
Courtney: Awesome. So is there a sort of history here? Is there a little background on the piquette that you can fill us in on?
G.A.: Yeah, it's actually pretty interesting. I think it wasn't something we were initially aware of when we first started exploring this, and as Jake kind of alluded to, there's actually a really lengthy history kind of behind the product itself.
Piquette is a French word. And so the name appeared around the 19th century in France. Farmhands and vineyard workers would make this product to kind of just enjoy themselves and almost even have throughout the day as something that they could drink while still being productive for the rest of the day. But it also, actually, dates even further back, all the way to the times of ancient Rome and ancient Greece where you can see, similarly, the folks that made the wine saving these leftovers and utilizing it to create this water-wine type of product that they were able to consume themselves, for the lower classes who couldn't necessarily afford wine.
Courtney: Well, that actually does go back a lot further than I was expecting. That's awesome. So especially talking about how a lot of us weren't really familiar with this, especially before Ditto really burst onto the scene with the piquette...considering that history and sort of it bubbling back up again (no pun intended!), how common or uncommon has the piquette been in recent years?
Jake: So piquettes have really been having a bit of a moment. They've definitely been written about in quite a number of very reputable publications in the food industry and in the wine industry as well. Really, this all kind of started in the US over at Wild Arc Farm. This gentleman is an amazing winemaker. Todd Cavallo has really been the kind of champion of the product and really the one who reintroduced it to the US--or introduced it to the US, for that matter. He started making piquettes about five years ago in 2016 at Wild Arc and really did so in a way that made the product really just delicious, light, refreshing, accessible. And he really inspired other winemakers and other vineyards to do the same.
So piquette is being made at many dozens of independent wineries from New York, Texas, Maryland, Oregon, and California--they are all making really delicious bottles of piquette. And we couldn't be more excited about it. When we discovered Todd's initially at Wild Arc, we were just mind-blown at how delicious it was. And we're inspired to actually make a piquette brand of our own.
G.A.: Yeah, and I think it's also kind of different that a lot of these wineries are treating this as a bit of a side project, which is not to say they aren't great products in and of themselves, but as a result, they tend to be smaller batches, and so harder to get our hands on. Jake and I, obviously, I mean--we're following Wild Arc on Instagram waiting for those drops, and it's still hard to get. And so one of the reasons we're doing what we're doing here is to really be able to bring that to a kind of broader audience as well, and really our focus is on piquette. It's not a side project for us. It's what we do day in and day out.
Hannah: How did the two of you discover piquette? What was the first time that you had it?
Jake: It was upstate. This was sometime just before the pandemic, actually. We were both upstate and just in a rented home up there. We discovered it through this wine shop called Kingston Wines, which is a truly amazing place. Kind of a little bit of a mecca in the Hudson Valley. And we had this piquette up there from Beaujolais. It, again, was a mind-blowing experience. That was our first entry point into the product.
G.A.: And I think it's something that Jake kind of found first. He's more into the natural wine movement than I am. I enjoy natural wines, but he tends to take a little bit more of an interest in the space and what's going on. And so when he was able to share that with me, we kind of had this moment where we were like, "Oh my God, how is this not something that everyone can have access to?” You know, how can having something this good be such a...I don't know if it's a secret or if no one's paid attention to it or what the deal is, but how do we kind of take this thing that we found and really just kind of spread it around?
And as you think about the sustainability angle on top of it, the history angle on top of it...there are just so many fascinating elements to piquette, that it was just such an exciting thing for us to start.
Courtney: Yeah, I do want to get to the sustainability factor in a second, but something I was wondering that you've kind of teed up here, really, is: Obviously, piquette is really special, really unique, and you've been getting into, you know, how that jumped out to you in particular. So I would kind of like to trace that to the origins of Ditto, that [piquette] was so special to you that you were like, "This is what we want to make our focus." And maybe if you can sort of use that to tell us a little bit about the origins and growth of the brand so far?
G.A.: Yeah, definitely, I think that story there kind of speaks to how we were introduced to it. And I think first and foremost, it was the taste. It was just light. It was refreshing. And it was kind of...some articles have really called it wine's answer to hard seltzers. And that was kind of the initial hook for us.
So I think food and beverage is a space that Jake and I have a lot of relevant background in. And so we've seen trends come and go. And one of the things that we've seen a lot of in the broader space is this element of sustainability. However, the alcoholic beverage space tends to be a little bit on its back foot with regards to that. And so the ability to not only have this great tasting product but also have it be sustainable and kind of low impact to the environment was really important to us. And it only reinforced our desire to go ahead and proceed with this project.
And I think the other thing to add on there, too, is because these wineries and these vineyards have this pomace, they don't have anything to do with it. We saw this as a unique opportunity to also add value to the supply chain that exists already and provide an incremental revenue stream to some of these winemakers that would otherwise just have to discard and in some cases even pay to have this pomace removed.
Jake: Every individual winery that we were talking about before...if they do make piquette, they're making it with their own grape pomace from the wines which they’ve made. Our goal is to take this amazing resource and to go to many wineries to add value, to provide them added revenue streams.
Courtney: Awesome. So you've gotten into this a bit, because, really, it's kind of essential to explaining what piquette even is...but just for our curious listeners and people who will be reading about this on the blog, is there sort of any more detail that you can go into about production, just sort of the step-by-step process? And then if you sort of want to lead into any more detail about the sustainability factor of that?
Jake: Sure. So, effectively, piquette is like making this grape pomace, wine-like tea because you're taking pomace, which is a solid with some leftover liquid remaining--basically, some wine remaining within the pulp. And you're taking that resource and you're transferring it to another bin and you're adding then water into it. So, effectively, you're soaking that grape skin because there's a lot of flavor and nutrient left over there, and there's still sugar that remains within the pomace as well. And that's what causes the fermentation to continue after wine production.
It's really important, I would say: One thing that we do to ensure freshness of our piquette and the clean taste is, we take the pomace immediately after wine is pressed and transfer it to another tank to start our fermentation. It's a very short fermentation. It can range in the 48-72 hour range. After which, we just repress the wine and then drain it off. And that is how you make a piquette.
G.A.: And kind of just to hit on a second point around how it's sustainable, really, one of the main ways is that we are not using grapes, right? We're using already pressed-out grapes. And so we bypass a lot of that water and energy usage that goes into growing incremental crops. It's one of the things that we noticed. And it's been really interesting to see working with these vineyards out in Napa, that the vineyards out there already, actually, are very sustainably minded when it comes to their farming practices. But at the end of the day, you still need water and you still need energy and resources to grow those crops. So why not find a way to use something that has already been used once and just bypass that altogether?
And then there's also just the sustainability from the perspective of the supply chain and just economics of the industry. And again, being able to add that value and really just drive some incremental revenue to these folks is just another way that we can kind of help out.
Courtney: Great. So what does sort of make Ditto's piquette super unique? We just want to hear all the fun, amazing stuff we know that you have to say about the piquette that you make.
Jake: Yeah, no, absolutely. So, really, we spritz it up, which is the kind of the unique thing about our piquette in particular. Most of the piquettes that you see out there, they are just piquette. Rarely, if ever, is anyone doing anything additional. But what we decided to do because we knew we can make a great piquette every year, we decided to say, "What else could we imagine this beverage being to continue to excite our drinkers?" And what we decided to do was to add a little bit of real fruit juices and botanical extracts that served to kind of enhance and magnify some of the flavors that actually were already existent in the piquette. Because at the end of the day, as we said, it's wine's cousin. So it still retains some of the same flavor notes that were present in the grapes that were used to make the wine.
So, now, for our flagship product, with red raspberry, we use raspberry juice. We use lemon juice to brighten. We use vanilla extract to kind of round flavors a bit. And we use a star anise extract to kind of give this back-of-the-palate, almost herbaceous note to keep you intrigued. Yeah, so those are the things that we do to really make Ditto's piquette unique.
G.A.: And it's been great to kind of get out there, have people taste the product. And one of the things that we're most proud of is when someone tastes i--kind of like yourself, Hannah--and you go like, "I'm not sure what I was expecting. It wasn't this. And I love it." For us, that's one of the best things that we can hear from folks because that's the reaction we had. It was something so new, something so different. We can call it a spritzer. We can call it a wine seltzer. But it's got that light, refreshing quality while retaining flavor. And it's hard to explain, but it doesn't taste like a watered-down wine. It doesn't taste like a wine-flavored seltzer. It really has its own unique flavor and structure around it that is enabled by, I suppose, the process. Wine is part science, part art, part leave it to the gods. And I think that's what's really cool about what we're doing here.
Hannah: It's interesting that its comparison is wine's answer to seltzer because I think it's so much better than a hard seltzer. It's so much more flavorful. And you're right, it doesn't taste like a watered-down wine. I actually equated the flavor more to kombucha--not as funky but just has more flavor than a seltzer, and it's not artificial at all. Plus, you get a great alcohol percentage, too ,and low calories. So it's just as satisfying, but just so much more enjoyable to drink.
Jake: Absolutely, yeah, we've heard that comparison before with the kombucha. So we think that hard kombucha drinkers will find, naturally, that they do love our piquette spritz.
Courtney: Actually, speaking of drinking it and enjoying it, I am really curious if you have any thoughts, suggestions, wild ideas, not-so-wild ideas, on pairing your piquette? Are there foods it goes really well with? I'm sure you're going to say all occasions, but are there certain occasions that's it's just the thing for?
G.A.: Yeah, no, it's funny. It is kind of a cop-out to say, "Yeah, it pairs well with everything, and it's for all occasions." And I think, part of that is just the nature of it being a super light and super refreshing and fizzy beverage, right? If you think about it, like a refreshing and fizzy beverage, when would you not want to have that? But yeah, on the food side of things--as far as food and occasions, barbecues are kind of a quintessential kind of occasion that we would think about drinking this. And it goes well kind of burgers and dogs.
I think it's actually a nice alternative to wine if you're doing a charcuterie board with some meats and cheeses. And I think that's kind of where we have that extra touch of flavor beyond the seltzer...it still holds up to something like that. One area where Jake and I actually disagree is I actually really like it with spicy Asian food. Typically, that's a cold-beer type of an occasion, and wine doesn't typically go too well, especially a red, but I love the lightness, the refreshingness of it as it goes with spicy food. Jake disagrees, and he is wrong, but I'll let him make his case if he so chooses. [Laughs.]
Jake: I will not. I will choose not to make my case in this public forum, but I will say, we've hosted dinner parties, we have hosted events where people are just having dinners outside at picnics. It fits into people's lives, really, which is the genesis of what we were trying to create, to meet people where they already are. So that's what we found, is that people love these when they're just chilling at home after work and watching Netflix, or when they just decide to go to the park and just kind of crack open a can.
G.A. Yeah. I think one of the cool things that we did was with our launch party, actually. It was an entirely Ditto party. So we sat there and went back and forth like, "Should we get some beer for folks?" We said, "No, if people are coming to this party, they're going to drink Ditto." We had it in a few forms, like we had Ditto in our cans, we had a sangria, and then we also did some cocktails, and there were no complaints. No one ran off to the bodega to grab a six-pack. And so that was actually really cool to see, as well.
Hannah: Yeah, not only is the can beautiful, but when the actual beverage is poured into a glass, it's such a beautiful color. And it's not like if you poured--I mean, people are just going to think I'm hating on seltzer, but if you're just pouring a seltzer into a glass, it's not really giving me anything for my happy hour. But if I'm pouring Ditto into a glass, it is like a glass of wine. It has this beautiful burgundy color. And I just think that reminds you of the process and the organic make of the drink, which I think just adds to it.
G.A.: Yeah, no, that's great to hear. And yeah, we don't really hate on seltzers, either. I'll typically have some seltzer in my fridge at any given point. It’s different, but it's also kind of one of those things that you inevitably have to compare it against because there's nothing else to compare it against. And I think the hard kombucha point you made was a pretty great one that we thought about, and it's cool to hear some other folks kind of making that comparison as well.
Courtney: Yeah, I have to say everything about the brand is just so aesthetically pleasing. Like Hannah said, from the can to what's actually being poured, it is just as lovely looking as it is tasting, which is just really nice.
Jake: Thank you. Shout out to Buddy-Buddy in Minneapolis.
G.A.: Yeah, they did a great job.
Jake: Our wonderful creative agency who did such an incredible job. Shout out to Ross and Andy.
G.A.: Yeah, Ross and Andy are great guys. And it was funny. Similar to us, kind of two friends who kind of have crossed paths, and left their jobs to go start their agency together. So there's a bit of a bonding experience that happened during that whole process, and they've been really great.
Courtney: Love it. All right. I think you did it. I think you explained the magic of a piquette. I feel like anyone who hasn't tried it yet is definitely going to be intrigued. I want one right now. But any final thoughts, what you want people to know sort of to take us out here?
G.A.: No, I think it's been great. I really appreciate you guys having us and giving us a chance to tell our story. For everyone else out there, just stay tuned. Follow us on Instagram. Check out our website. It's red raspberry for now. There will definitely be additional flavors coming soon. So stay tuned for that. And yeah, just keep your eyes out on the shelves. We'll also be kind of launching e-commerce within the next few weeks as well. So lots of exciting stuff to come.
Jake: Yeah, thank you all for your support, for TapRm and to anybody intrigued by piquette and the curious who have tuned in. So thank you.
Courtney: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it. It was so great to talk to you. And yeah, we're looking forward to seeing all the great things to come from Ditto. So cheers.
G.A.: Cheers. Thank you, guys.
Jake: Cheers. See you.