Interview with Roberto Vanin, founder of Bolle

Find out why Roberto Vanin, founder of Bolle is so passionate about creating a more drinkable alcohol-free wine.

What’s your career background?

I’ve worked across the world for an array of blue-chip consumer operations as Head of Research & Development. One key learning over the years is that to truly agitate in a set-in-its-ways category you need the presence of passionate ‘outsiders’ not constrained by ‘conservative’ mindsets.

My ambition is to establish a new grown-up experience beyond sodas and adult soft drinks that appeases demanding taste buds    

Where did the idea for Bolle come from?

I am a passionate wine enthusiast but wanted from time-to-time moderate my consumption and abstain from alcohol. Unfortunately when I delved into the fledgling low/no alcohol wine category, I couldn’t unearth anything that was even remotely enticing.

At this moment in time the marketplace is awash with low/no alcohol offers that are overtly sweet, sugary and calorific, so more akin to a soft drink than a sophisticated wine alternative.

What’s the thinking behind Bolle in a nutshell? 

Bolle is a revolutionary drinking experience that in the first instance consists of two ‘effortlessly effervescent’ sparkling brewed drinks (white and rose) that are bringing some much-needed fizz to the everyday drinks repertoire of ‘mindful drinkers’ (sober curious).

We are reinvigorating a stalling low/no alcohol wine category that has historically struggled to keep pace with its aspirational low/no spirit and beer peers. 

Today growing swathes of Millennials and Gen Z reject old-school drinking rituals (bingeing, end-of-day, mid-week) alcohol consumption, opting instead for more health-conscious/low calorie alternatives.

What’s the meaning of the name Bolle?

Simple – Bolle means bubbles in Italian and sparkling wine alternatives is our theatre of expertise.

What have been your biggest obstacles?

Replacing tired perceptions that anything non-alcoholic can truly step up to the mark when it comes to appeasing taste buds, creating a memorable drinking experience and pairing seamlessly with your favourite meals.  

What’s your best lockdown lesson?

That today health-conscious thinking has more credence than ever. Today consumers study ingredient and nutritional decks like never whilst seeking to trim down their worst excesses (calories, sugar and salt counts, red meat intake and alcohol units).

What’s the clever science behind Bolle?

The single biggest challenge for low/no alcohol products is delivering great taste. Most incumbent ranges are created by de-alcoholization, a physical process which extracts alcohol from the liquid.

My idea was to come at the problem from a new direction namely fermenting juices without producing alcohol. The resulting Zero Gradi technology is the eagerly anticipated fruition of my vision, collaborating with a ‘leading light’ bio-tech operation that create yeasts that consume the sugars in juices yet are unable to convert them to alcohol.  

What’s your proudest moment to date?

Undoubtedly the first few bottles rolling down our small batch production line, although this will soon be usurped by our eagerly-anticipated debut at June’s London Wine Festival. 

Who’s your ideal customer?

Sobriety and drink moderation has never been more in vogue with growing numbers of Millennials willing to abstain from alcohol, substitute in non-alcoholic options or flit between alcoholic/non-alcoholic options over the course of an evening.

We live in a world where positive choices, wellness and mind health are pursued like never before. THAT SAID changing mindsets doesn’t mean letting down your taste buds.  

Which brand do you admire and why?

Without trying to show too much Italian bias I would have to say Nutella, for pioneering a new space at breakfast time and beyond (fillers in pastries), for putting hazelnut appreciation on the map, condemning traditional chocolate spread to the ‘old news’ and for constantly reinventing itself to look fresh and pertinent (dips, biscuits…).

Iconic is an over-used word, but for Nutella I think we can make an exception.

What’s your top three tips for other business founders?

1) It is much easier to give up than continue the journey

Only if you are driven by a strong purpose you can keep up the work as you can find the reason for moving forward inside you. I wanted to change the habit of drinking of adults providing better solution for me and for my fellow wine enthusiasts.

2) Never give up; be resilient

Most of the day I move one step forward and few steps backwards. There are always challenges ahead. There is always a way to climb the mountain, it is just important to find it. Keep exploring!

3) You always need a bit of luck

Find around you the people that are able to support your journey. Always accept a different point of view and encourage people to say the truth and express what they believe. I do like people with an opinion especially if it is different from mine!