In the beginning, the allure of canned wines was the novelty. Then it was about the convenience, especially for outdoorsy types. Eventually, it was the often surprising quality of the fermented grape juice contained therein.
Now all three factors have turned canned wine from a fad into a trend. Over the past three years, sales of these wines have followed this trajectory, according to the Nielsen Co.: from just under $10 million, to $42 million and then $70 million.
Which helps explain why chains such as Top Ten, Kowalski’s, Lunds & Byerlys and Edina Liquors have embraced cans. And why bars such as Nomad World Pub, Lush, Parallel, Lake Wine and Kitchen (at the airport) and Midway Saloon have hopped onto the bandwagon. And why country clubs, public golf courses, marinas and resorts such as Grand View Lodge in Nisswa, Minn., are all over the movement.
“It’s great for boats, golf courses, the beach restaurant and our special banquet events outside,” said Grand View Lodge wine director Christine Iannelli. “I think it’s a fad, but they said that about box wine when it came out. I said I would never buy box wine, and now occasionally I do.”
While cans are a natural fit for Minnesota’s lakes and rivers, they’re also a hot item in the core cities at outlets such as Stinson Wine, Beer & Spirits, an early adopter and now home to an impressive aluminum display. Owner Bob Anderson said the primary customers for his 40-plus offerings are millennials.
“It’s more the younger, active crowd in their mid-20s, the camping crowd,” Anderson said. “Sales go through the roof once spring hits.”
But the convenience factor comes into play for consumers of all ages. “A lot of times people don’t want to worry about that half-empty bottle in the fridge,” Anderson said. “In the cans, there are just a couple of glasses.”
And of course, cans are not only lighter than bottles but easier to transport, open and sip at parks and beaches (those where alcohol is allowed, of course) and while hiking and biking. They’re also more readily recyclable because of their compactness.
One slight caveat: The wines often taste better when poured into a glass, which many of us prefer with canned beer, as well. It’s almost certainly psychosomatic, but wine can seem “tinny” even though the cans are lined with polymer. Plastic wine glasses can remedy this potential pitfall for those on the move.
Cans almost always come in either 250- or 375-milliliter sizes. The former contains a third as much as a regular bottle and by federal law must be sold in four-packs, while the latter has half the wine of a 750-ml bottle. There’s the occasional 500-ml vessel, and one of my favorites, the Prosecco-inspired Scarpetta Frico Frizzante, is packaged in 187-ml cans.
Sparkling wines are a natural for cans, which can protect the bubbles (and keep out light and oxygen, an advantage with all types of wine). The super-lively Bollicini Sparkling Cuvee, super-sensuous La Bulle-Moose Blanche and super-complex Onward Pet-Nat are stellar introductions to the notion of bubbles in a can.
Some of the better effervescent choices come in pink iterations, from the likes of House Wines, Bollicini, La Bulle-Moose Fizzy Pink and Underwood. And of course non-sparkling rosés are justifiably popular (rosé ranks ninth in popularity among bottled wines; in cans, it ranks second). Some particularly swell options include Alloy Wine Works, Essentially Geared, Joe to Go, West + Wilder (yum!) and Eufloria (double yum!).
More recently, vintners have started bringing red and white wines to these conveyances with positive results. My favorite might be the Lubanzi Chenin Blanc from South Africa, with its fruit-cocktail array of flavors. Also worth checking out: Tangent Sauvignon Blanc and Tiamo White. And the locally owned Famiglia Meschini has a new Argentine malbec called Vamos! Vino.
With so many great wineries on board, this is a trend that will not go away. I’ve always told folks who wanted to learn about wine that the best way to do it is to “pop corks.” Now I can safely add “pop tops” to the advice.
Bill Ward writes at decant-this.com. Follow him on Twitter: @billward4.