You remember the Always Sunny where they poured wine into cans? It seemed like a classic move for the gang — it got them drunk, was gleefully dishonest, and stained the hell out of their teeth. Well, some business exec saw that and thought, “Viola! Get me a checkbook!”
At least that’s how I imagined the scene playing out when I heard that wine in a can was about to be a real thing. And yet somehow, in the years since the news broke, canned wine has grown from a clever marketing ploy to a $16.4 million/year industry. Even mainstream brands like FlipFlop have gotten in on the action. The rise of canned wine could be attributed to its portability: it’s easy to smuggle into summer music festivals and outdoor movies; or its eco-friendly qualities: aluminum is easy to recycle and the production of cans cuts down on costs; or the simple fact that people like alcohol and delivering it to them in new, convenient ways is always going to be a win. In truth, it’s probably a mix of the three.
At the root of this trend is a push to market wine in a more millennial-focused way. Because millennials don’t want to f*ck with corks.
“One of the challenges of the wine industry is all the knowledge people think they need to make a purchase,” Union Wine Co. Owner and Winemaker Ryan Harms told Uproxx. “The craft beer movement took a lot from wine packaging as it came of age, and we think we can shift some of our focus back to something that has more fun, rooted in craft but less stuffy.”
The Oregon-based winery’s Underwood cans were first launched as a promo item at Feast: Portland in 2013. Harms has since coined the term “beerification” to mark the wine industry’s push to be stylish without being snobby. “Beerification” sounds like something Charlie would say in his marketing pitch to make can wine profitable, but we’ll let it slide.
Wineries like Denver-based The Infinite Monkey Theorem — who launched canned wine way back in 2011 — have embodied this trend. Their can looks like something you’d see on your brother-in-law’s new wakeboarding boat, not in a tasting room. It’s all intentional. Winemaker Ben Parsons favors “back alley winemaking” over the seclusion of Napa.
Other canned wines on the market include Lila Wine, Pampelonne, The Drop, and the Mancan — a brand about as secure in its masculinity as a guy with a rubber nutsack hanging from his trailer hitch. Bro, I guess you’ve never been to the Catalina f*cking wine mixer.
Even The Fat Jew has jumped on the canned wine train, turning his White Girl Rose into “Babe,” Like his jokes, he came late to the idea, but he’s acting like it’s fresh-as-hell.
With the number of high-frequency millennial wine drinkers rising with a quickness, it’s likely that canned wine’s popularity will keep growing too. Because guess what? It tastes great. I’ve had both Union Wine and Infinite Monkey and sincerely liked them. I drank them on the beach and the gang is right: they were highly convenient and very easy to disguise. Which leaves me thinking that this growing is poised to go mainstream. Although once the soccer moms get it, it’s OVER! Then we’ll all have to start injecting our wine in an IV drip.
“You can’t easily sniff, or swirl wine in a can,” says Ryan Harms. “It forces you to just drink it and enjoy it without over-thinking.”
Enjoyment without over-thinking, huh? That’s clearly a Mac line, but I’m in.