Putting canned wine in perspective

canned wine
Somebody bring the rose. The socca is ready.

No, canned wine is not the end of the universe. So why do we keep hearing that it is?

A recent trade magazine story asked the question, “How seriously should we be taking the rise of wines in a can?” To which my answer was, “Who cares?’

The story was mostly the same winebiz-speak we’ve been seeing for the past couple of years as cans have become more popular. To wit: The wine business is shocked to discover that consumers will drink wine out of something other than a 750-ml bottle with a cork-style closure, so it’s obvious that cans are going to take over the wine business. So we need to do something!!!!!

Is it any wonder I worry about the future of the wine business?

We read the same stuff when Tetrapaks were au courant and boxed wine was supposed to be the next big thing. And nothing changed – 75 percent of the world’s wine still comes in a 750-ml bottle with a cork-style closure.

So why the panic now? Yes, the quality of much canned wine is suspect. But why should that bother an industry that turns out vast quantities of plonk in bottles?

Because the wine business, and especially the wine business in the U.S., has so much time and money invested in keeping wine exactly the same way it has been since the end of World War II. So anything that threatens the ancien regime is to be feared. And it’s to be especially feared given the current wine climate of flat sales and increased sobriety. Even if, in the end, canned wine won’t make that much of a difference to flat sales and increased sobriety.

So why can’t we just drink wine – canned or otherwise – and enjoy it instead of rending garments and gnashing teeth about the future of the wine business? I recommend this blog post from food writer David Lebovitz. He is discussing socca, the chickpea flour pancake and or crepe thing famous in southern France, and his point is most welcome (as is his socca, one of my favorite Saturday night appetizers):

And for any wine snobs out there that think it’s folly to serve wine in cups instead of glasses haven’t had the pleasure of standing near a wood-burning oven, eating a blistering-hot wedge of socca with a non-recyclable tumbler of wine. Preferably served over ice, Marseille-style.

Photo: “FR’Nice 11’0925 – 13” by karendelucas is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

6 thoughts on “Putting canned wine in perspective

  • By AC -

    Socca reminds me a Pannelle, a Sicilian version. (https://bit.ly/2mYLfm4). Must try it soon.

    I’m with you re: canned wine. I did a piece for the DMN, where I had a specific target and angle. It went over well. But now, every ten minutes, some blogger, or worse, an “influencer” posts another bloviated post. WFC?

    Now that you’ve stirred the beast, if i read another post about Prosecco where the writer (and I use those words loosely) must, once again, for the umpteenth million time, tell us about Glera, I swear I’m going to stop drinking Prosecco. Writers would do themselves (and us readers) a greater service, rather than regurgitating the same old droll facts, to tell a unique individual story about something, whether it be over canned wine, Prosecco or one’s important opinions of big brands.

  • By Paul Tincknell -

    Good perspective on the hysteria surrounding cans and any alternative packaging other than glass bottles with cork bark. However, as one who has labored (I use that word deliberately) in the alt-packaging arena for decades, a big chunk of the industry hesitancy is due to the lack of packing tech ready in the wine industry; up until recently canners able to pack wine were rare and highly custom packing lines. Likewise it took a bag manufacturer like Scholle to loan and lease bagging equipment to get the first fine wine bag-in-boxes launched. Cans and Tetra Paks used to require the packing of tens of thousands of cases on first order, preventing most start-ups from even getting beyond concept. Wine takes a bit of special handling when packed, be it glass bottles or flexible pouches, and the industry ossified around the bottle-cork package out of historical inertia. Some of the fear is among smaller wineries that can’t afford the new packing tech, and worry about losing out (again) to the big producers.

    The other factor is our fearless federal regulators that, in post-prohibition wisdom, limited the size of wine containers, making it awkward for wine producers to pack and sell suitably sized containers in the market – unlike beer and spirits producers that can choose whatever container size they want. (There is an amendment awaiting judgement to that restriction before the TTB currently.)

    As far as cans ever replacing the bottle-cork package – not in our lifetimes if ever. The use of alt-packaging should expand the situations in which wine is enjoyed (and just might – might – expand the market too), and not replace (too many of) those occasions when the bottle-cork package is currently enjoyed. Indeed, the sobriety movement may lose a bit of steam if single-serving containers truly catch on; those wishing moderation find it easier to have a glass or two when you don’t worry about left-over wine getting oxidized. If it is easier to drink wine (instead of beer or RTDs) at sports events and at the beach, then why not? So the industry should be promoting and celebrating alt-packaging, not fearing it.

    Coca-Cola comes in cans (half-sized and 12-oz), varying-sized bottles, 2-liter plastic bottles, kegs, etc., so that, when you want a Coke, there is an appropriate size for that very moment, or it is available by-the-glass where you are. That is how wineries should be thinking of alternative wine packaging. Hopefully, in the near future, we can remove the “alternative” when discussing these container formats.

  • By Mike Dunne -

    Is Glera available in cans?

  • By Bill Tobey -

    I lived in San Francisco when the city fathers supposedly out of concern for the alcoholics and homeless selected certain city blocks and forbid businesses to sell Ripple and similar wines (Mad Dog 20/20, etc.) Gee, they didn’t outlaw the sale of vanilla extract, typically 20% alcohol!

    The truth is they were just being wine snobs!!!

    What was the result? The stores just moved across the street! Ah, smart business people always outsmart the politicians.

    Smart winemakers and marketers will always outsmart the wine snobs! Oh, my god not wine in a can!!!!

  • By Jim -

    Sometimes a vessel is simply as a vessel. Just because were putting wine in cans doesn’t mean cats and dogs are going to be sleeping together. Let’s get over ourselves people. If you remember in the beginning of the craft beer revolution people are freaked out about cans. Wine is a product that should be enjoyed no matter how it is packaged.

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