For about a decade, canned wine has been mostly a niche offering — a novelty item that hipsters might order to seem ironic. But now, for the first time, one of the top 100 wine brands is debuting a product in a slim, brightly colored aluminum package.
“We believe the time for wine in cans has arrived,” says Eben Gillette, vice president of marketing for flipflop wines. “Cans are becoming an accepted vessel for premium beverages, be it craft beer, sparkling water or high-end soft drinks. We believe it can be a great way to enjoy wine, too.” In February, flipflop released four varieties of canned wine nationally: chardonnay, pinot grigio and the lightly effervescent Fizzy Sangria and Fizzy Crisp White.
Aluminum cans work best for wines “meant to be drunk young and fresh,” Wine Spectator’s Ben O’Donnell writes to Can Science. “Aluminum is a more sustainable and recyclable form of packaging than glass bottles and also a cost-effective form of packaging wine. Plus, the single-serving size makes for ease of use, especially outdoors at, say, a picnic or the beach (where legal!) and reduces the potential waste of leftover wine in a bottle.”
Niebaum-Coppola Winery was the first to really make a splash in the canned-wine field with its 2004 release of Sofia, a sparkling blanc de blancs in a pretty rose-colored can. “The more we kind of played with the idea, the more we warmed up to it,” Niebaum-Coppola president Erle Martin told NBC News at the time. “We realized we could make a can very cool and very elegant.”
Sofia was an instant club favorite among young people. “They don’t feel they can finish the bottle in one sitting and don’t realize they can buy a stopper to seal in the bubbles,” Berit Holms of MKF, a wine-industry consulting firm, said in the same article. “The smaller single serve packages can serve to take some of the intimidation out of the category.”
Canned wines are among several new, often eco-friendly packaging options, including boxed wines and kegs, that winemakers have been experimenting with. Since 2004, several other canned wines have appeared on shelves and in bars. Australia’s Barokes Wines offers an award-winning collection in slim aluminum bottles as well as traditional cans. “Our target consumer is generally females aged between 20 and 40 years; however, males are also adopting our wines, as they are perfect for any kind of outdoor activity, such as sailing and golf,” Barokes sales and marketing director Irene Stokes tells Can Science. “The premium quality of our wines, plus the benefits of the aluminum can packaging, are very appealing to a new generation of wine consumers who are younger and who have on-the-go lifestyles.”
The Infinite Monkey Theorem in Denver sells four carbonated wines in funky black cans embossed with a monkey’s face. Accolades Wines has been canning sparkling wine since 2012. And Friends Beverage Group offers an assortment of canned wines including “the world’s first coffee-wine,” which they assure us will be on the market soon.
Then there is Union Wine Company, which sells canned pinot gris and pinot noir. Slate reporter Kara Newman attended the New York launch for Union’s canned line, which is called Underwood; she wrote, “Poured into a glass, it tasted identical to the same wine poured out of a glass bottle.” Union’s owner told Newman that canning, rather than bottling, saves his company 40 percent in packaging costs. He adds that consumers are the driving force. “A can also is about form and function,” he said. “In Oregon, it’s hard not to be an outdoorsy person. Cans are portable, you’re able to handle and dispose of them easily.”