WINES IN A CAN
The great wine writer Mike Veseth said in the early 1990’s that bottles were “traditional, accepted, inefficient and doomed”. Pretty rough stuff. He was referring to the then emerging phenomenon of the bag in the box. Canned wines were not yet over the horizon. Today they are the future- right now.
BLUE LOBSTER WINE COMPANY
LOCAL URBAN WINERY:
I sat down with Chris Gamble in his local Portland, no frills, just barrels, tanks and canning equipment, (with a couple of tables and chairs) urban winery on Anderson Street to taste and ask. Why cans? What about that tinny taste we expect? We both got eyeball to eyeball peering into the innards of a fresh out of the carton, ready to be filled can. This was not what I expected. There was a lining inside that was very different in look and feel from the aluminum casing outside. Ah, glorious technology. It is a liner with a nitrogen seal. The goal here is freshness and pure taste, without the tininess we associate in our minds with cans.
Chris is the ideal urban winery guy. A jack of all trades, he worked at a winery and saw what was happening in places like San Francisco and Oakland, California. Urban wineries lack the Liberace Candelabra ambiance but choose to provide an unpretentious tasting environment as fresh as the wines themselves. The concept is simple: source the best wines, taste and continually think about what you are making and where your audience may be headed. And offer value. The present lineup of cans is 375 ml (half a bottle), priced at $5.99 each, the equivalent of a $12.00 bottle of wine.
Chardonnay (Yakima sourced), This is the definition of light, fresh, crisp, dry, green apple inspired chardonnay in a can. He had no interest in going the oak aged route. “You want Kendall Jackson- head on out and buy some K.J. (in a bottle)”.
Rose (Paso Robles sourced), 100% Grenache. A dry, tasty, fruity rose at 13.4% alcohol. Many roses have some sweetness, his do not. This is ideal picnic with cheese and salami wine. Chilled, sure.
Bayside Blend, (Lodi) a new release of zinfandel, merlot and, the always compatible white, viognier. 14.2% alcohol. A sit on the deck red with freshness of flavor. Or, throw them into a bag and tow them behind your kayak.
Zinfandel (Lodi) Old vine zin in a can! Fire up the grill for this serious 15.5% alcohol, intense, full bodied zin. Not for the faint of heart.
“For the millennials cans are a no brainer. Some of the boomers who come in are a bit taken aback with the idea. Once they taste them, they come around”. These are wines that are jocular in look and pure of taste.
THE NATIONAL BRANDS:
Sofia Blanc de Blancs mini, 187 ml with its own straw. $4.79 This was the debut adorable sparkler from the famed Coppola family that hit the U.S. market with a frenzy of refreshing pinkness in an equally adorable can and box. More to come from Francis Ford Coppola in the form of his Diamond Collection Monterey County Pinot Noir at $5.99 a 250ml can.
Rose and Pinot Grigio, $3.49 a can, 375 ml. You know it will be a serious battle when Ernest and Julio Gallo, the world’s largest winery located in Modesto, Calif., enters the ring. Aside from their legendary distribution and merchandizing muscle “put highly advertised bottles at eye level”, from their 300 page in house manual, the bible for their reps selling wine, their real talent is trend spotting and their creation of personas. Enter Beth Liston, “renegade wine maker” with “game changing innovation” and introducing “kickass flavor” (what a great website!). Or, in other words, Beth is a very attractive blond, heavily tattooed, Instagram photo perfect AND a millennial. She joins that long list of Gallo character ad personalities dating back to Madria Madria Sangria, folksy Carlo Rossi, even folksier Bartles and Jaymes and beyond. Where there is a hot, new trend emerging, you will see it from them in a store-of course at eye level. Her winemaking technical prowess is a perfect match for their marketing prowess.
GETTIN’ JIGGY WIT IT: Local Baroque in a can:
MAINE MEAD WORKS
Mead, the honey-based wine of the gods predates history. Picture some old dude in 7,000 B.C. sitting wrapped in a caftan sucking on a 3foot long reed sticking in a piece of primitive pottery- he is drinking mead. Fast forward about 5,000 years to a group of Vikings hanging in their “Mead Hall” listening to their “skald”, or official poet and story teller relating sea faring, raids, gods and goddesses, women chieftains, etc. Long winters fueled with lots of mead. They did add one major new touch- the Viking drinking horn. Just google up this miraculous drinking vessel. It exists in all sizes and prices, and for a bit extra you can purchase an adjustable belt holster. Norse sagas not included.
Maine Mead Works on Washington Ave., the makers of HoneyMaker mead have brought back this ancient beverage and crafted it in eye popping new forms. They are in an industrial themed space that is a far cry from a “Mead Hall”. The modern drinking horn, of course, is the can. In their case two creative meads are available in cans with, hopefully more coming from Ben Alexander, founder and expert in all things mead.
Iced Tea Mead, 12 oz. $16.00 a 4 pack . “Black tea, fresh squeezed lemons, mint and honey”. It is a far cry from traditional mead. The 6.9% alcohol is just right as a balance to the tea and mint flavors.
Lavender Lemonade Mead , 12 oz. $16.00 a 4 pack , 6.9% alc. In a distinctly psychedelically inspired can. Mead, lemon juice, lavender and mint, this is one of my all-time favorite hot afternoon beverages. The Vikings claimed that mead was the origin of poetry, this is the modern equivalent.
This is a mere sliver of what you will be seeing in the not too distant future in the can world. It is NOW a world.
(EDITORS NOTE: Layne is a professional in the wine business with over 30 years of experience. He can be reached at email@example.com for talks and consulting. Website https://winemaniacs.wordpress.com/blog.).