Most North Americans have no idea how fun it can be: a mug of mulled wine cheer, warming your hands before it warms your whole body. At a pub on a winter day? At a ski-slope? Come on!
FireVines founder Ben Andrews hails originally from the UK, so he knows just how much delight the mulled wine tradition can inject into a long, cold winter. “I was lucky enough to grow up skiing in Austria, so I experienced the apres-ski scene, where you ski, then drink Gluhwein—mulled wine.”
When Ben got married to a Canadian and moved to Nelson, BC, “where there’s an incredible local ski hill”, he wondered why his favourite post-ski beverage was nowhere to be seen.
“Vendors at the ski hill said mulled wine was a bit of a pain to keep hot and if they didn’t sell it all, they’d have to throw it away.”
So, Ben explored creating a machine that would produce mulled wine on demand. But when he got quotes back for a quarter to a half-million dollars for a prototype, it was back to the drawing board. Fortunately, he eventually discovered a company in the UK who had already cracked the code.
Ben’s new company quickly secured the exclusive rights to sell this dispenser in North America. Before long, Ben was connecting bars, restaurants, and—yes—ski hills across Canada with a system that allowed them to heat up single 6 oz glasses of Cauldron BC Mulled Wine in just 18 seconds.
FireVines’ Cauldron BC Mulled Wine is premium BC red wine that’s slightly sweet and blended with lively and warming flavours of orange, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and more. The company also sells Bugaboo Craft Apple Cider seasoned with a touch of orange, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. As a proudly Kootenays-based company, FireVines has partnered with Skimmerhorn Winery and Vineyard in Creston, BC. The wine and cider come in 3-litre bags in boxes and stays fresh for 6 to 8 weeks. These boxes fit onto the special bar top dispensers—but their delicious contents can also be heated up on stove-tops or in crockpots.
“What a lot of people are just realizing is that you can order our boxes of mulled wine and cider—and even our dispensers—right off the website. You can enjoy the experience right at home!”
When FireVines first launched, Ben quickly experienced one of his first major challenges. He’d originally named the company Elephant Mountain, but soon a lawyer advised him that there were other companies in beer and wine with “Elephant” in the name. After landing on the new name FireVines, he suddenly had a lot of boxes he had to somehow rebrand. In stepped Great Little Box Company/Ideon Packaging (GLBC).
“GLBC came up with a large label that could cover up the old branding. After they helped us with that problem, they worked with us to make our new wine cases as unique as possible.
“Because our cases are cylindrical—they’re bespoke to fit onto the dispenser—we couldn’t use off-the-shelf labelling. It would just bubble up. So GLBC did lots of research and development to find the label that would work.”
Nowadays, Ben is looking forward to “properly launching” the Bugaboo Cider. After all, he “couldn’t exactly hit the road to promote it this past spring”, with a global pandemic raging. With COVID-19 having hit the hospitality industry as hard as it has, he’s glad that wine and cider lovers are discovering the website and ordering directly to their homes. In the future, he’s planning to create a smaller format than the 3-litre box, so those who are curious can try it out without making a big investment.
“When I visit ski hills, the majority of the time people are asking, ‘What is mulled wine?’ Then, they try it and go, ‘Wow.’ I’d love to help more people have that experience.”
We know they will. And we’re so looking forward to working on that new label with FireVines as they carry out their mission to make winter merrier.