Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Wine in CANS!

Yes, we love alternative packaging. The bottle was an amazing invention 400 years ago, but it's time to move on. Cork has made tremendous progress in recent years, but a corked bottle this weekend reminded us that cork's time has come and gone as well. If any of you buy the argument that cork stoppers are ecologically important, we ask why you don't demand them in all of your beverage containers. Why should wine alone bear the burden of maintaining an artificial, if rich, ecosystem? Yes, we can continue this rant with anyone interested. But on to the real point...

We have had wine in cans, and it is good. Wine in cans is hardly new, as this article from the San Francisco Chronicle demonstrates. But the article hardly gives the impression that earlier canned wines were associated with quality.

The wines from Wild Pelican should turn that around. These wines are simply fabulous. Not "fabulous for wine in a can," but fabulous. And it comes in cans.

We read about the Wild Pelican wines in Mutineer magazine, and requested samples that were very generously provided by Tim Jacobi, of Gima International, the US distributor for the wines. Mr. Jacobi provided a great deal of information along with the wine, most of which is also on the Wild Pelican website.

But we get ahead of ourselves. How about the wine? Mr. Jacobi sent samples of two of the three Wild Pelican products (and we will be eagerly seeking out the third). The red is a Tempranillo from the D.O. Cariňena region of Spain. It is redolent of bing cherries and cherry pie, with hints of baking spices. Smooth and silky, this is very pleasant even if it does not scream "Tempranillo."

The white blew us away. It is a Chenin Blanc from South Africa's Western Cape. Chenin Blanc's home may be France's Loire Valley, but the South Africans have grown it for hundreds of years and made it their own. This instance is absolutely classic, and very aromatic with scents of green apple and gooseberry. There is some slight carbonation (it's not fizzy) that lifts the fruitiness, and mouth-watering acidity. This wine demands food, and would be perfect for a picnic.

The third wine, which we have yet to try, is a Grenache-Shiraz rosé from the Languedoc-Rousillon (France). We love rosé, as well as Grenache and Shiraz, so we have high hopes for this wine.

Mr. Jacobi advises that the roll-out of the product will be measured. The plan is to build a loyal following in key areas in the eastern and central US before releasing the wines in California. You readers on the eastern seaboard are lucky.

Prices will vary based on state taxes etc., but Mr. Jacobi expects individual cans to sell for $2.09-$2.49, with 3-packs and 6-packs costing slightly less per can. Note that the cans are 187-mL (1/4 of standard wine bottle), so at these prices a bottle equivalent would cost up to $10. It makes sense to have a small package given that there is no way to re-close the can once opened, though it might be nice to have some larger options available, too. The wines are well worth $10/bottle--the convenience, weight and environmental benefits are all bonus.

Okay, so the wine is good, now what about the packaging? The can weighs a mere 8 grams, compared to almost 200 grams for a glass bottle of the same volume. The wine is not exposed to light, which can be quite damaging, even through green glass bottles. Cans are allowed where glass containers are forbidden, and while Wild Pelican won't say it, the cans are easy to smuggle into places where wine might not be allowed at all. Finally, while we are not overly concerned with packaging aesthetics, this package looks and even feels good. No one, we hope, will feel sheepish bringing this wine to a party or opening it for friends.

Keep your eyes open for Wild Pelican, and let us know what you think when you find it.

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  1. Wow, totally intrigued and can't wait to try it.

  2. We can't wait for you to try it, either, Kelprat89! It's really good. We've been promised a sample of the rose--maybe we can enjoy that together.

    On another note, some readers have expressed concern that the can lining may contain BPA. We have confirmed that it does, but so do all aluminum beverage and food cans. We suppose the presence of alcohol may make more BPA leach, and we do not mean to downplay the concern. However, we think the concern may be overblown in light of the facts that
    * beer can linings also contain BPA
    * children, who are most at risk from BPA, will not drink canned wines
    * canned food likely spends more time in can before consumption than canned wines will.

    We have discussed the issue with the can manufacturer, who have provided documentation that their lining is in compliance with all European and US laws regarding BPA. As far as we can tell, the science on BPA risks is far from conclusive, which certainly does not mean that it is *not* harmful. But, at the moment, we are more excited about the possibilities for canned wine than we are concerned with the presence of BPA in the cans.

    We welcome comment on the BPA issue!


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