I distinctly remember the first time I saw wine in a can. I was visiting the Francis Ford Coppola winery, probably around 2004. At the time, the wine-loving film director had been producing his sweetish Sofia sparkling wine for a few years, and after searching for a way to sell single servings of the wine, eventually settled on 187 ml cans. I remember seeing these cans, collected neatly in a pink hexagonal box of four, with straws included, and thinking to myself, ‘That’s pretty neat. I wonder if it will ever catch on?’
It took about 15 years, but wine in a can has progressed from Coppola’s quirky (and intuitively brilliant) experiment to the next big thing in wine packaging. More than 600 individual canned wine products have entered the market in the last 10 years. According to Nielsen data reported in Wine & Spirits Daily, canned wine sales in America increased 69% in value and 49% in volume last year, bringing the total sales of the category to more than $50 million. With overall growth in wine sales generally slowing in the country, this kind of jump demonstrates keen consumer interest in a different way of relating to wine.
And make no mistake, this is something new. Canned wine is not just about a novel vessel to hold our favourite liquid, it’s a different model of consumption. For starters, wine in a can is a single serving. And it is not designed to be poured into a glass, it’s designed to be poured into your mouth.
This has led to a fundamentally different way of talking about wine for many wineries. Most of the marketing on and around wine in cans emphasises portability, the outdoors, and fun activities. Think picnics, beaches, pools and hikes – places where you’re not going to (or frankly shouldn’t) have a wine glass, let alone a table or a corkscrew. Consumers seem to be relating to these products differently from how they’d relate to your average bottle of wine.
This article is my monthly column at JancisRobinson.Com, Alder on America, and is available only to subscribers of her web site. If you’re not familiar with the site, I urge you to give it a try. It’s only £8.50 a month or £85 per year ($11/mo or $111 a year for you Americans) and well worth the cost, especially considering you basically get free, searchable access to the Oxford Companion to Wine ($65) and the World Atlas of Wine ($50) as part of the subscription costs. Click here to sign up.