Photo: Catie Viox for Zest Cincy
FRUITBLOOD specializes in fruit-forward wine.
Fruit wine tends to get a bad rap, but that’s something owner Josh Elliott of FRUITBLOOD is ready to change with his fruity libations that are now available state-wide. Elliott teamed up with Cincinnati-founded craft beverage distributor Cavalier Distributing to bring his fruit wines to bars, restaurants and stores throughout Ohio.
Elliott’s interest in fruit wines blossomed a few years ago as he searched for fruit-forward champagne that seemed nonexistent. “The whole thing started as a want for cherry champagne,” he said. “I like champagne; I’m not really a big wine drinker. And part of that was just because it just takes so much education trying to learn about wine.”
But to his surprise, he couldn’t find fruit-forward champagne. “I really thought for sure somebody’s got to be making cherry champagne,” he said. “The more research I did, it seemed like people were so apprehensive to add fruit to their wine.”
And thus, Elliott’s foray into fruit wine began, officially launching FRUITBLOOD in 2021. But he wasn’t starting from scratch. Elliott previously worked as a head brewer at Urban Artifact, which specializes in alcoholic fruit tart beverages, so he already had experience with fermentation and fruit flavors, which helped in his transition as a wine-maker.
Working at Urban Artifact also helped him make industry connections, especially when sourcing ingredients and finding reputable farmers to purchase quality fruits. He sources cherries from outside Traverse City, Michigan, boysenberries and crab apples from the Pacific Northwest, and peaches from the Carolinas for flavorful drinks.
If you’re a wine drinker, fruit wine isn’t much different except for its more enhanced fruit-forward flavor, Elliott says. “The fruit flavors are more explicit,” said Elliott, which he looks for in his own beverage choices. “I just want those flavors turned up to the point where I can actually taste them instead of just being hints.”
You can really taste the difference in their most popular wine, Love Bite, which Elliott describes as “cherry pie in a glass.” While not too sweet, this fruit wine is made with white grapes and Montmorency cherries for a delicious, well-rounded taste. “The bubbles and tartness help fill in the gaps in your brain to make it kind of pie-like,” said Elliott.
FRUITBLOOD is a team effort between Elliott and designer and brand director Becca Miller, who met at a wedding in 2019. Miller brought Elliott’s vision for the brand to life and allowed each bottle to have its own artistic feel while keeping the brand cohesive.
“I realized all the rules are out the window, so we can kinda do what we want when in terms of branding like we’re not trying to make it look like anything else,” said Elliott. “If people are going to think we’re tacky, to begin with, let’s just lean into it and make it as fun as we can,” he said.
Partnering with a distribution company has freed up some of Elliott’s time, allowing him to focus more on the wine itself instead of selling it. “This year seems like a really big refinement year for me,” he said.
Working with a distributor also gives him a new perspective on his business. “It’s really helpful to get some more feedback from the market from their sales reps to kind of get an idea of maybe things I hadn’t thought of or directions to take the business in that I hadn’t thought of,” said Elliott. One of those ideas he recently debuted was canned wine. “Fruit wine is a leap, good fruit wine is a further leap, and then canning that…so getting ideas of things people would want is going to be really helpful,” he said.
While Elliott worked with aluminum cans previously at Urban Artifact and likes that they’re infinitely recyclable, using them with fruit wine was a bit more complicated. FRUITBLOOD makes pét-nat style wine, a French term roughly meaning “naturally sparkling.”
“The thing that kind of defines it stylistically is bottling the wine before it’s finished fermenting,” said Elliott. And while this took some experimenting, FRUITBLOOD released two canned wines in the spring of 2023 — Weirdo Pét-Nat and Tasteful Nudes Rose Pét-Nat — that are both a sustainable and convenient new addition. “I don’t like having to open a whole bottle all the time, so to open a can is really nice,” said Elliott.
Elliott plans to see how distribution goes throughout Ohio before adventuring out to other states. Currently, outside of Ohio, most of his orders go to Chicago, Washington, D.C., and New York, so those are potential future endeavors. But in the meantime, he looks forward to getting better at winemaking, experimenting with new flavors, and focusing on growing FRUITBLOOD’s club memberships. “For people to buy into the idea with me and say, ‘Sure, I will commit to buying your new stuff as it comes out,’ I really appreciate people giving me the benefit of the doubt in that way,” he said.
FRUITBLOOD’s club membership is easy to join on their website and drops four times a year. There are three membership levels, all dependent on the number of bottles you’d like delivered per season, starting at around $54 for two bottles, $102 for four bottles, and $153 for six bottles. Club members enjoy fun perks like first access to new pét-nats, wine pairing recommendations, recipes and access to FRUITBLOOD merchandise.
for more information about where FRUITBLOOD wines are available to purchase throughout the state.
For more information about FRUITBLOOD, visit fruitblood.com
Originally published by CityBeat, Scene's sister paper in Cincinnati.