Best Buys From the Wine Cellar: Canned wines a tasty alternative
Let’s say it’s a beautiful August day, just perfect for a relaxing moment poolside, or maybe a picnic or cook out around the campfire. Sipping an easy drinking, tasty wine would be fun, but is it worth the hassle of opening an entire bottle, using wine glasses and then disposing of the glass bottle?
But as many wine drinkers are discovering, there’s a handy alternative. For casual gatherings, consider the convenience of easy drinking canned wines with pop-top openings.
Wait, canned wines? It’s a gag, right? Nope.
According to Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board spokesman Shawn Kelly, canned wine sales started slowly, and by the second quarter of 2017 the system only offered 11 selections. As of the second quarter of 2019, however, the PLCB carries 85 selections from all around the globe. Comparing the first two quarters of 2018 to those of 2019, the number of canned wines units sold increased by 97% and gross sales revenues increased by 126%.
While total second quarter canned wine sales of around $600,000 remains a small part of overall PLCB wine sales, the commonwealth anticipates their popularity will grow. Stacks of canned wines now hold prominent floor locations in many prime PLCB retail stores. Displays of a variety of canned wines also entice customers to make last-minute purchases near checkout lines.
“Customers appreciate the convenience and portability of wines in cans. They don’t have to carry big glass bottles. They don’t have to worry about bringing or using corkscrews, or re-corking bottles they might not finish,” Kelly notes. “Some of our customers like the portion control that comes with cans of wine. Maybe they’re the only one in the family or at a gathering who likes a particular (wine) varietal, so opening a regular bottle of wine is wasteful when only one person would be drinking it. A can of wine is a better choice for them.”
Glass recycling wanes
Patrick Walsh and Barton Towell, co-founders at 6 Mile Cellars (6milecellars.com) on Lake Erie, Pa., focused on a canned wine program in 2017. They found a canning company using high quality cans with nitrogen injections to ensure the freshness of the wines, and in 2018 they launched their “Yes. We. Can.” line.
“We wanted a more approachable wine package that would be versatile. Cans are acceptable at pools, golf courses and beaches, whereas the bottles are not,” Walsh notes. “Also a smaller package means less waste and makes it an easier decision to enjoy wine without needing company.”
Subsequently the partners recognized canned wines’ added benefits: less weight and better opportunities for recycling the cans themselves.
“We can move more canned wine products in a smaller footprint in our trucks,” he says. “And in 2019 as the trade issues eliminated the benefits of shipping glass to China for recycling, we are happy to have an alternate canned package that is still renewable.
The canned wines are available at the winery, and Walsh sells them as well at the Sewickley farmers market. Going forward he envisions a solid return on 6 Mile Cellars’ investment and marketing.
“It will be a matter of time until consumers of dry reds and fine wines will appreciate the canned wine package,” he says. “There will always be a place for a fine bottle of wine, but for all the other places, I say: Yes we can!”
Rock ‘n roll attitude
The Zampogna family, owners of the northwestern Pennsylvania’s Flickerwood Wine Cellars in Kane, also fully embraces canned wines. Their six “Zamp” wines (flickerwood.com) come in color coded cans with a sweet red, a semi-sweet blush, a dry red Pinot Noir, a dry white Pinot Grigio and two sweet fruit wines. Single, 375 ml. cans cost $8. Discounts apply to 4, 6 and 24 packs.
Tammy Liberato, daughter of co-founder Ron Zampogna and sister of winemaker Rich Zampogna, says canned wines fit well with the winery’s “Wine That Rocks” identity.
“Our winemakers both play in rock bands, and you don’t see many bands or musicians drinking from wine glasses and bottles,” she notes. “But you can find them drinking ZAMP cans on stage. It enhances our brand.”
Customers like the convenience of opening only one can versus an entire bottle. Canned wines also have an “on the go” perception, Liberato says, so they fit well with picnics, camping, beach and tailgating — fun activities popular in the beautiful Allegheny National Forest surrounding the winery. The cans’ 100% recyclability adds another appealing point.
Flickerwood offers Zamp cans at the winery and its satellite locations. They also ship within the commonwealth. Call 814-837-7566 to order.
Try these tasty canned wines, too (Note: 375 ml. equals one half of a standard size bottle):
The Tiamo White Wine, I.G.T. Terre Siciliane, Italy (Available at Penn Cove Eatery and Wine Beer Boutique, 245 7th St., Downtown, Pittsburgh; $7.99 for 375 ml. can) comes from Grillo grapes grown organically on Sicily’s southern tip. The wine’s fleshy, ripe citrus fruit shines and balances with clean, fresh acidity through a dry finish. Recommended.
The 6 Mile Cellars, Molly’s Rosé, Pennsylvania ($8 per 375 ml. can, or 4 cans for $24 at either the winery or Sewickley farmers market) comes from Pinot Noir and Noiret grapes. The pale salmon color has a fruity nose and soft, fruity flavors with refreshing acidity. Recommended.
The delicious Barnard Griffin, “C’est Le Vin” Rosé, Washington State (Luxury 77968; $5.99 for 375 ml.) comes from Sangiovese grapes. The wine’s lovely deep salmon color offers fruity cherry and floral aromas opening to pure and refreshing berry and pomegranate flavors. Bright acidity lifts the dry finish. Winemaker Megan Hughes says canned wines “are an exciting next step” at this family-run winery. Highly Recommended.
The Frico by Scarpetto, Lambrusco, IGT Emilia Rosso Frizzante, Italy (Luxury 76563; $13.99 for 1.1 liters) comes in a small cardboard box depicting a large pig, a symbol of the Emilia-Romagna region’s marvelous Prosciutto di Parma hams. Inside, four metallic silver and burgundy cans each hold 275 milliliters of wine (i.e., about 9.3 ounces). The wine’s deep purple color delivers plum and raspberry aromas. In the glass — or straight from the can — frothy bubbles unfold with juicy red and black fruit flavors. The soft finish has just a hint of sweetness and only 9.5% alcohol by volume. Delicious. Serve slightly chilled. Highly Recommended.
The Original House Wine, Pinot Noir, Chile (Luxury 77583; $5.49 for 375 ml.) has a dark ruby color offering elegant black cherry and spicy aromas. The pure, dark fruit flavors balance with good acidity and soft tannins. A tasty red! Highly Recommended.
The frothy Ste. Chapelle, Blood Orange Spritz (Available at Penn Cove Eatery and Wine Beer Boutique, 245 7th St., Downtown, Pittsburgh; $7.99 for 375 ml. can) offers a light orange tinged libation with pleasant orange aromas. The off-dry, fruity drink has just enough acidity and bitter orange peel tannins to offer thirst-quenching refreshment. Recommended.