Wineries used to avoid alternative packaging, such as cans, bag-in-box or Tetra Pak containers, for fear of losing sales or damaging their reputation with consumers. Some traditional family operations may long continue to do so, barring a serious transformation in consumer perception or significant breakthrough in sterile, durable and well-designed packaging options.
Good wine, of course, always came in a glass bottle. That bottle was a sign of a winemaker’s serious intent and devotion to quality. The calibre of wine going into glass substitutes used to be, frankly, less than stellar. The convenience of having a lightweight, single-serve container to take on a picnic or elsewhere was the main selling feature. However, that’s no longer the case.
Younger consumers have created the demand for innovation in wine packaging, especially a proliferation of products sold in cans. As wineries lose market share to ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages, such as hard seltzers or lemonades, more brands are looking to single-serve options that combine quality and convenience.
It should be clear that wine in cans didn’t have a bad reputation because of the quality or reliability of the package. It’s because the wine inside those cans often wasn’t worthy of attention. But progressive wineries, especially a growing number in California, Australia and here in Canada, don’t think it’s foolhardy to put good wine into a container that isn’t made of glass.
West + Wilder launched in Santa Rosa, Calif., in 2018 with an initial inventory of 500 cases of rosé and 500 of white wines sold in 250 mL cans instead of traditional 750 mL glass bottles. Currently it is making 45,000 cases, with targeted growth projection of 65,000 as new markets in Australia come online. Its refreshing and enjoyable dry rosé, which is sold in a smartly designed three-pack that is the equivalent of a conventional bottle, is released this week in Ontario. A sparkling white wine will follow through LCBO Vintages outlets in September.
You can expect to see more canned wine options at liquor stores and wine shops this summer. The portability factor is often touted as a major convenience, but it’s worth remembering how cans cool down faster than wine in glass and don’t require any other equipment to open the container or enjoy its contents. You’ll also enjoy how easily they fit into a fridge or cooler that’s well stocked for a long weekend or summer camping trip.
This week’s recommendations include a range of wine and ready to drink beverages in cans that are available and a newly released red wine that comes in a convenient lightweight pouch that’s ready for summer barbecue season.
Bangarang Pink Lemonade Hard Seltzer (Canada), $21.95, 8 x 473 mL
London, Ont.-based Bangarang recently extended its range of low-calorie hard seltzers to include Pink Lemonade. The pretty pink colour and refreshing flavour make it easy to appreciate served over ice with some added mint sprigs if you’re so inclined. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price or direct through drinkbangarang.com.
Benjamin Bridge Piquette 2020 (Canada), $5.49, 250 mL
Labelled as a wine refresher, the latest release of Piquette from Benjamin Bridge boasts a zesty character that’s truly clean and refreshing. Bright ruby grapefruit and lime zest notes standout on the nose and palate, with a lingering hoppy and salty aftertaste. Vegan-friendly. Drink now. Available in Nova Scotia at the above price, various prices in Alberta, $5.95 in Manitoba, $5.99 in New Brunswick and Newfoundland.
Bicycle Thief Red Blend (Portugal), $15.75, 1,500 mL
This juicy and soft red blend comes in a lightweight pouch that holds the equivalent of two bottles. Made by Vicente Faria, a seventh-generation winemaker based in the Douro Valley, its mix of sweet fruit and peppery spice flavours are enjoyable with or without a meal. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price.
Big House The Birdman Pinot Grigio (United States), $3.50, 250 mL
Made in a soft and refreshing style, this peachy and citrussy white from California was one of the first wines available in a can. It’s far from complex but isn’t intended to be. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, $5.19 for 250 mL in British Columbia, $4.49 for 250 mL in Manitoba, $4.50 for 250 mL in Quebec.
Freed Earth Hard Tea Black Tea with Lemon (Canada), $13.29, 6 x 355 mL
Freed Earth makes vodka-based hard tea beverages in three flavours, including refreshing black tea and lemon. The producers advertise 100 calories and three grams of sugar per 355 mL can. Drink now. Available in British Columbia at the above price, various prices in Alberta, $15.99 for 6 x 355 mL in Manitoba, $18.99 for 6 x 355 mL in Nova Scotia.
Lemon Life Hard Lemonade Strawberry (Canada), $25.49, 12 x 355 mL
Lemon Life is another ready to drink brand created by Mark Anthony, the company that created Mike’s Hard Lemonade and White Claw. The addition of ripe strawberry adds a burst of flavour that’s nicely balanced by the citrussy character. Drink now. Available in British Columbia at the above price for a variety pack, various prices in Alberta, $15.99 for 6 x 355 mL in Manitoba, $14.40 for 6 x 355 mL in Quebec, $32.99 for the 12 can variety pack in New Brunswick, $20.28 for 6 x 355 mL in Newfoundland.
Mayhem Rosé 2020 (Canada), $73.08, 12 x 250 mL
Made from merlot grapes from a single vineyard in Naramata, this is a deliciously light and juicy rosé that promises to drink nicely throughout the summer and fall. The expressive berry, melon and subtle herbal notes make this easy to appreciate. Drink now. Available direct through mayhemwines.com.
Scarpetta Frico Lambrusco (Italy), $19.99, 4 x 250 mL
Frico Lambrusco is a sparkling red wine from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Its mix of sweet berry and tart currant flavours and drying finish make for an enjoyable aperitif, burger or pizza wine. Drink now. Available in British Columbia at the above price, various prices in Alberta.
West + Wilder Rosé (United States), $19.95, 3 x 250 mL
A new listing in Ontario, this dry and refreshing rosé is made from a blend based on pinot noir from Sonoma County. It’s sold as a package of three single-serve cans that contain one-third of a traditional bottle. Made in a crisp and vibrant style, this offers pleasing citrus, berry and melon notes. Drink now. Available in Ontario.
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