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Wine Spectator: Canned Wine Comes Of Age

May 24, 2019

Cans are one of the fastest-growing forms of alternative wine packaging on the market—a burgeoning category that also includes bag-in-box and Tetra Paks.

Last year, canned wine sales jumped 69% to more than $69 million, totaling 739,000 cases in retail outlets tracked by Nielsen. That’s up from just $2 million in sales in 2012.

Many of California’s largest wine players are jumping into the game, including E. & J. Gallo, Treasury Wine Estates, and Foley Family Wines. They join The Wine Group and The Family Coppola, which set the stage for modern American canned wine with its Sofia Mini Blanc de Blancs in the early 2000s.

John Wilkinson, managing partner at Bin to Bottle, a custom-crush winery in Napa, says that he had nearly 20 clients lined up to can their wine before he had even finished installing the canning line earlier this year.

The popularity of canned wine typically spikes in spring and summer as wine consumers head outdoors. But that’s beginning to change. “There has traditionally been seasonality in the wine category, but what we see is a pretty steady demand year-round for cans and bottles,” said John Anthony Truchard of JaM Cellars, who started packaging his Butter Chardonnay and Candy Rosé in cans last year.

“The outdoor and active sport community has certainly embraced the cans, and we’re also seeing folks in big cities purchase them for the portion size for home or outings around town,” Ryan Harms, founder of Union Wine Co. in Oregon, told Wine Spectator. Union Wine Co. was at the forefront of the canned wine movement when it started packaging its Underwood Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris in 375-ml. cans—equivalent to half a bottle—in 2014. Since then, Underwood’s lineup has expanded, with 55% of its wines packaged in cans, totaling 244,000 cases in 2018. And Harms expects that figure to nearly double this year.

Despite the sales growth, the canned category only accounts for 0.4% share of the overall wine market, according to Nielsen. But some winemakers see a broader audience for canned wine. “I really think the target demographic is wide open,” argues Ron Penner-Ash, winemaker at Free Public, which sources wine from California, Oregon, and Washington. Ron, who co-founded Penner-Ash winery, believes that higher-end wine in a can would make a good fit for golf clubs and sports venues.

In recent official Wine Spectator blind tastings, more than a dozen wines scored very good, or 85-89 points on Wine Spectator’s 100-point scale. Rosé and white wine show the most promise, such as West + Wilder’s White American NV (88 points, $20), sold in a three-pack of 250-ml. cans, one of the most popular sizes; and Ferdinand’s Rosé California 2018 (87, $9), a single vineyard Carignan. Union Wine Co.’s snappy and fruit-forward Underwood Pinot Noir Oregon NV (87, $7) was the highest scoring red wine in a can. Wine Spectator has more on the fast-rising canned wine category.—Augustus Weed

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