September 28 2021
Has the moment arrived for canned wine?
The countries with a longer tradition in wine culture - Spain among them - are the ones that have been the most reluctant when it comes to incorporating alternative formats to the ancient glass bottle in the search for more practical, profitable and ecological options to store and transport this drink.
Probably, this rejection is cultural, since there is a more accentuated fondness for the classic image of wine, intimately associated with the bottle as an iconic container, with its respective cork - cork oak, of course, no synthetic materials such as those currently in vogue - and its inevitable capsule lining the stopper.
The same attachment to routine is what has led these countries, jealously academic in their understanding of winemaking, to protect the classic ceremonial of wine service: the sommelier who exhibits the bottle to the diners, uncorks it with extreme zeal, using various utensils, then tasting the precious liquid in a brilliant tastevin like the ones that some professionals of this guild still wear - as a necklace - to finally pour the wine into the glass of those who have requested the noble service, awaiting their approval.
The new formats that compete with the traditional bottle are beginning to gain a foothold even in the most traditional markets of the wine business.
The alternatives to the bottle
Well, all that ritual and fetishism, of course, is lost with the emergence of new formats that for years have been gaining space as an option to the everlasting bottle. But, although there may be opposition to novelty, changes always end up taking place. And this is how, finally, formats such as bag-in-box and cans have ended up being incorporated into the world of wine. Although it cannot be said that they will replace the bottle, at the very least, these formats are here to stay.
In the case of the bag-in-box, the technology is simple, but it is very practical for the conservation of wine: a box with an inner bag, made up of several sheets that protect the wine from the effects of light and oxidation; with a tap that facilitates dosing. This system - which in Spain does not seem to convince consumers - does succeed in the northern European markets, due to its advantages of cost savings and easy storage.
The canned wine business has grown rapidly in the last decade, focusing on specific typologies: young, fragrant, mono-varietal, and sparkling wines.
Canned wine: all the advantages
Regarding canned wine, it is a bet to which wineries have joined with greater wariness, due to the image distortion that until recently this format implied, as well as because canned wine requires a specific investment in machinery.
But for consumers, reaching for a can when enjoying a wine has many advantages: it is an unbreakable container, easily transportable, for individual consumption, which quickly reaches and maintains an ideal temperature. Cans can also be bought from vending machines and consumed in areas where bottles are banned or difficult to transport beaches, cruises, outdoor excursions, sporting events... Cans are also a good alternative to offer on airplanes.
The world market for canned wine
Considering all these points, it is not surprising that the market for canned wine has had such great growth during the last decade. According to a study by the consulting firm Nielsen, in the United States alone, sales of wine in this format increased from $ 2 million in 2012 to $ 183.6 million in 2020. In 2019, the world market for canned wine was estimated at $ 70.3 million.
Nevertheless, to enter this business - which is still more dynamic in markets such as the United States than in old Europe - wineries must consider that not all wines are suitable for canning or seductive for consumers of this format. What prevails here are young, fresh wines, with clear fruit and varietal expression, frank and rather simple. And especially, bubbles triumph. Let's not forget that canned wine was born, among other things, to compete with soft drinks and beer. With that purpose in mind, carbonation is the perfect ally.