Aspen Times Weekly: Alternatives to Bottles?
UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Infinite Monkey Theorem Rosé in a Can
No vintage. No notes on the can. Just a pop-top Rosé with a bit of light-hearted fizz. A summer sipper that can be consumed fresh from the can or poured into a flute.
BUYING CANNED WINES
Infinite Monkey Theorem
Colorado’s most innovative winemaker offers the coolest cans of vino on the planet. Be a part of the evolution.
Francis Ford Coppola Winery
Sofia Mini Blanc de Blancs
Inspired by the Director’s daughter, this refreshing sparkler in a pink can is the Fiat 500 of white wines. Tiny, the size of a quarter bottle, the wines come with a sipping straw.
The Union Wine Company
This Tualatin, Oregon, based winery produces Underwood Pinot Noir and a Pinot Gris in 375ml cans - that’s a half bottle.
You can order online at: http://shop.unionwinecompany.com/collections/underwood/products/underwood-pinot-in-a-can
Of all the wine packages on the market these days, one can seriously argue that the cans coming from Ben Parson’s Infinite Monkey Theorem wines in Denver are the most, well … unique.
Short and thin, they can’t be confused with beer cans. And the graphics, IMT’s signature benevolent monkey, give them a kind of decadent, primal look that is more in keeping with the urban ethos espoused by Parsons and IMT than the pastoral images conveyed by the graphics on most wine bottles. Make no mistake, the IMT cans represent a new look for something that is very old indeed.
Wine, it is thought, has been stored in glass bottles since the Romans began blowing glass in, oh, about the first century A.D. The oldest bottle of wine currently in “our” possession was unearthed in Germany in 1867 and has been authenticated as having been produced in or about 325 A.D. The “Speyer” wine, as it is called, still exists in its original 1.5 ml bottle waiting to be unsealed. Yes, it is topped, not with cork, but with a wax seal.
With nearly 17 centuries of history behind it, you would think the tradition of the glass wine bottle might be a bit tough to tussle with. But the times, they are a changing, and a number of entrepreneurs are using a variety of innovative devices to package wines more ecologically, more efficiently and more economically.
In wine bars and restaurants, wines are increasingly poured from kegs and taps. And if you walk into wine and liquor stores, you’ll find that shelf space is being gobbled up more and more by the presence of box wines.
Last week, wine giant E.&J. Gallo announced it will be jumping into the box wine business when it introduces Vin Vault in April. Vin Vault will sell three-liter boxes of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Malbec and a Red Blend for $20. Stephanie Gallo, the vice president of marketing at the company started by her grandfather and great uncle during prohibition, said recently in the Shanken News Daily, an industry diary, “There’s a sea change occurring in consumers’ perception of wine. It’s becoming a casual social beverage as an adjunct to the dinner table.”
The wine-in-a box business has boomed in recent years. Constellation, another industry behemoth, sold 4 million cases of its Black Box brand last year and anticipates more than 20 percent growth in 2014. Bota Box saw an 18 percent increase in 2014 to 3 million cases. That’s a lot of wine.
So what’s the draw for the box migration? Cost, taste and simplicity for starters. Box wines are much less expensive to package and ship, which makes producers happy and drops the price to consumers. Secondly, the quality of all wines has improved greatly over the years and the consistency of flavor that large producers can provide for a palatable price is probably better than at any time in history. If the wines weren’t good then, no one would buy them. Finally, boxes make it easy for consumers to buy, store and forget about until they want the next glass. Shelf life for an open box is four to six weeks. Oh, and you can forget about cork taint.
The canned wine game, while growing, still has not seen the kind of explosion in growth as boxes. IMT first canned wines back in 2011 when they introduced a black Muscat. Buoyed by buyers, and the conversation that has ensued, they have decided to double down, or, actually, quadruple down, on the emerging trend. Last Halloween, fittingly for Parsons, a party was held in Denver at IMT’s River North Arts District-based winery to introduce the new four-pack packages featuring wine in cans.
A red, a white, a rosé and a Moscato, all slightly frizzante, are sold in 250-milliliter cans for $15. Add it up and the four-pack equals a full bottle and a quarter and represents a bargain. The goal is to expand the market for the canned wines to a number of other states, including Texas where IMT has sights set on a tasting room in Austin. Infinite Monkey Theorem has done an outstanding job building a lifestyle brand around their wines. A brand that uses all aspects of their culture, from where they source their grapes to where they produce their wines to how they package them, to make a statement.
While I wouldn’t expect to see California cult cabs or first growth Bordeaux in anything other than bottles anytime soon, it is clear that after 17 centuries or so, the packaging of wine is getting a face lift.
Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass with his wife, Linda, and black Lab named Vino. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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