Written for the Burlington Free Press By Jeff Baker, Free Press contributor.
Back in 2009, wine in a can was such a far fetched idea that a major network television show made it a central joke for an episode. Frank Reynolds (Danny DeVito), the hilariously irreverent father-figure on “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” decided to sneak booze around by funneling cheap box wine into used diet soda cans. Soon the whole gang was on board, enjoying the freedom that canned wine afforded them.
“I am loving this can-wine thing,” Dennis Reynolds (Glenn Howerton) exclaims. “I think it’s brilliant. I mean I’m active, I’m gesturing with my hands, and I don’t feel restricted. If I was holding a wine glass right now I’d be spilling wine all over the … place.”
It seemed like a stretch, even for a show like “Always Sunny.” But sometimes life imitates art, and on the heels of the canned craft beer craze, wine drinkers can now enjoy the same freedom that Dennis felt back in 2009. Enter: (good) canned wine!
If you’ve been following the craft beer scene for a while you’ll know that although canned craft beer is now accepted, it wasn’t always so. It took a lot of craft beer pioneers to convince the general drinking public that cans are actually better vessels for protecting beer than glass bottles are. Now wine makers are fighting that same fight — or maybe some are just jumping on the trendy bandwagon.
In either case, the 2016 Survey of American Wine Consumer Preferences revealed that 20 percent of Americans surveyed said they would purchase wine in a can. That may seem like a small percentage, but it’s a rapidly growing segment. According to Wine Industry Network Advisor, sales of canned wine increased by 125 percent from 2015 to 2016. In these studies, consumers reported many perceived benefits of canned wine: the feeling of a cold can adds to the “refreshment” quality of drinking a beverage; cans feel more portable, making them a more ideal package for outdoor activities like hiking, boating and picnicking. Plus, aluminum cans are recyclable — a win for the environment!
One of the first serious players to jump into putting wine in cans actually pre-dates Frank Reynolds’ high jinks. Sofia Blanc de Blancs “Mini,“ by Francis Ford Coppola Winery, first came in 187ml pink cans, with a straw attached no less, back in 2004. But alone it sat for many, many years.
But as you head to the wine shop this year, you’re likely to see a growing section of canned wine. This will be the year of wine in a can and here are a few examples to look for in Vermont wine shops.
Francis Ford Coppola Winery is adding a Sofia Sparkling Brut Rosé “Mini” to the line-up this year. It will come in the same 187ml four pack configuration, and of course will come packed with individual miniature straws. Each can is one glass of wine – single serve! These make great party favors and are also great for that “I just want one more glass of wine” feeling at the end of the night.
Union Wine Company ships three canned wines to Vermont under the Underwood brand: Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Rosé. All three wines are produced from Oregon-grown grapes and come in 375ml silver cans (that’s half a bottle of wine, for those keeping score). I’ve tried all three and you can’t go wrong.
Seven Daughters has a nice dry Rosé in can, made from grapes from the Veneto region of Italy. It also offers an Italian Pinot Noir. Four packs of 250ml cans are the equivalent of a 1 liter wine bottle, but have the benefit of portability and the ability to only open as much wine as you plan to drink. No more wasting a partial bottle of wine!
Remember those sticky sweet wine coolers of the 1990s? One winery is trying to modernize and update the wine cooler during this canned wine craze. Ramona is a slightly sparkling organic wine blended with ruby red grapefruit juice in a 250ml can. The grapes are sourced from Sicily and the drinking experience is very Mediterranean.
Want something bold in a can? Check out Field Recordings “Fiction,” a red blend from California. These 500ml cans are packed with a blend of Zinfandel, Mourvèdre, Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and a little Tempranillo. These cans are a little over three glasses of wine, so maybe split it with an accomplice.
I can dig it, can you? Let me know about your favorite canned wines on Twitter: @aPhilosophyOf.
Jeff S. Baker II is the Curator of the Curriculum for Farrell Distributing. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram @aPhilosophyOf. Jeff co-hosts the “It’s the Beer Talking” podcast found on iTunes and Soundcloud. More info at www.burlingtonfreepress.com/news/podcasts