Packaging other than glass bottles is by no means new. In fact, glass bottles are a relatively “new” invention. It wasn’t until the 17th century that glass bottles and cork stoppers were introduced, and until the early 1800s, that the modern wine bottle came into being. After 200 years, there has been little change in the wine packaging world.
If we look at the history of wine, ancient Georgians used a qvevri, large earthenware vessel coated in beeswax to ferment and store wine. Ancient Greeks and Romans later upgraded to amphorae, wax-lined ceramic containers, to store their precious libations before transitioning to oak barrels, similar to those we still use today to ferment and age wines to give them toasty, spicy and vanilla characteristics.
Somewhere between the cheap jug wine of our college days to the fancy bottles cellared away, something happened to wine. Once reserved for drinking at picnics or on the beach, canned wine has now taken off as one of the best ways to enjoy your favorite vino when you're in quarantine. For $3 a can or $12 a 4-pack, the category's popularity is undeniable. According to Nielsen, in less than a decade, sales of wine in cans have jumped from just $2 million in 2012 to more than $69 million today, totaling 739,000 cases in retail outlets tracked by Nielsen.
Many of California’s largest wine players are jumping into the game. “We always felt that canned wine was not a fad, and that is why we stuck with it,” said Corey Beck, CEO at The Family Coppola, a pioneer in modern American canned wine. ‘’Cans have come a long way from the 60s. Like beer and soda cans, modern wine cans have a protective coating or liner and don’t transmit an aluminum taste. Several blind tastings have been done comparing the same wine from bottles and cans (including our own), and test groups have not been able to detect a reliable difference between the two formats.‘’
You might be surprised to learn that cans are actually better for most wines than glass bottles. There’s no possibility of the wine being “corked,” which spoils 2-3% of all wines. There’s no risk of oxidation or light penetration, which can lead to that heartbreaking musty, cardboard taste.
Any wine packaging– canned, boxed or bottles– must serve three purposes. First, and most obviously, it must contain the wine, allowing it to be easily transported, stored and consumed. Second, it must protect it. Wine is a fickle, living product and can be damaged if exposed to oxygen, bacteria or other harmful contaminants. Finally, it must provide information about what we’re drinking, where the grapes were grown, the alcohol percentage, the name of the wine and more. There's no denying the fact that canned wine is just so convenient. Some canned wine companies have mix and match packs, which allow for drinking exploration. Plus, cans are better for the environment than glass. They are lighter to ship, require less packing material and are easier to recycle.
Another myth is that only subpar wines are being put into cans. That may have been true 15 years ago, but today some of the top, fresh, early-drinking wines are put into cans. All wines, even sparkling wines, are getting the can treatment. But the most reliable way to buy canned wine at this very moment is, like most things, to order it online direct from the source. Canned wine delivered to your door might just be the ultimate "in" convenience!
The category is no longer just a fad, canned wine is catching on, as young consumers increasingly set aside the stemware and crack open cans of wine. It’s not unusual to find cans of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Rosé on store shelves and being hawked at music festivals. Once considered a novelty, cans have burst into the mainstream, enticing young wine drinkers to pop the top with their easy-drinking style, convenient packaging and value. The popularity of canned wine typically spikes in summer as wine lovers head outdoors. “There has traditionally been seasonality in the canned wine category. The outdoor and active sport community has certainly embraced the cans, and we are also seeing folks in big cities purchase them for the portion size for home or outings around town,” says "Wine Spectator." The "Millennial Generation" is driving much of canned wine’s growth, drawn to its portable and recyclable packaging. Cans are also lighter and more durable than bottles and can be enjoyed directly from the can, making them more park, beach and festival-friendly than glass. In recent official "Wine Spectator" blind tastings, more than a dozen wines scored 85-89 points on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale. Rosé and white wine show the most promise.
Whether cans will ever be more than easy-drinking sips remains to be seen. Canned wine is meant for the here and now; not meant to be hoarded in your basement cellar.
Canned wine is sold in a variety of sizes, from 187ml to 500ml containers. Under current regulations, only certain sizes such as 375ml cans—the equivalent of a half-bottle of wine can be sold individually. But the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (ATTB) is proposing to eliminate most of the standards of fill for wine. That could allow wineries to package wine in 355ml cans, the standard size of a beer can, as well as sell 250ml cans individually, potentially opening up new markets.
Call me old fashion, but I’m not ready to sit down at Thanksgiving with a can of a red blend. It just doesn’t work for me in that setting.
I am just getting used to the screw top.
So, enjoy some canned wine, because it’s here to stay and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.