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Canned wine makes up only a small sector of the overall wine market, but sales have exploded, increasing 69 percent in 2018 alone to $69 million, up from just $2 million in sales in 2012, according to Wine Spectator magazine.

WINCHESTER — Imagine this scenario: You’re at the beach, packing the cooler, and face the quandary of how to fit that wine bottle in a cooler already packed with water bottles, beer, and sodas. The tall shape just doesn’t really fit (unless you have a gigantic cooler.)

Or, say you’re going camping and need to fit everything into as little of space as possible. Bringing a heavy glass wine bottle (or two) just isn’t going to work when you have so much to carry and facing a hike of a mile or more to the campsite.

Sure, these are first-world problems. But one that has a good solution — enter canned wine. Yes, wine that comes in a can.

“I was skeptical,” said Charlie Fish, sommelier and co-owner of Murphy Beverage Company on the Loudoun Street Mall in Winchester.

“I had no issue with screw caps, at all, ever. Canned wine made me do a double-take, which is ridiculous. I drink all kinds of stuff out of cans. But they are putting some really, really good wines in cans. It’s environmentally correct, it’s recyclable, which Winchester doesn’t recycle glass anymore. It’s cheaper to transport it. It chills faster. It’s all a plus, there’s not a single negative thing about it.”

You may have seen canned wine on the shelves at your favorite wine store or grocery store this summer, and thought, huh? Though they have been on the market since 2012, according to Wine Spectator magazine canned wine sales have exploded since 2018, jumping 69% in that year alone. Local wine stores in Winchester began carrying the aluminum-enclosed libation this spring.

The idea of drinking wine out of a can may initially elicit turned-up noses or looks of horror, but give it a chance, says David Johnson, owner of Wine Mill in Winchester.

“I’ve had customers come in who are wine aficionados, and they look at the can and say, ‘Are you kidding me? Why would you do that?’ And I’d say, close your eyes. Let me bring a can over to you and open it up, and taste it. Before you judge it, taste it. They are good, they’re good wines,” he said.

Just because it comes in a can doesn’t mean you have to drink it in a can. The smaller, convenient size makes it easy to carry around to anywhere you want to go, but once you reach your destination (the pool, beach, boat, outdoor concert, etc.), pour it into the drinking vessel of your choice.

“Most people do drink the bubbles and the whites out of the can, but red wine gets a little difficult, I would pour that in a glass, or how about a red solo cup — we’re taking the pretentiousness out of wine,” said Johnson.

Another major benefit of canned wine is that it is recyclable. Many localities no longer recycle glass, leading to many a guilty feeling when throwing away an empty wine bottle of wine. Another plus? You also don’t have to worry about having a corkscrew nearby to open it.

Johnson said people may worry the wine will have a metallic taste to it conveyed by the aluminum. But that’s not the case.

“They line the (inside of the) cans, so you don’t get the tinny taste,” he said.

“They had to do a lot of R and D work, if they didn’t and launched these, it would be a complete flop and they’d lose everything. So they put a lot (of research) into it,” to ensure that the taste was on-par, he said.

Wineries in the western U.S. were the first to can wines, but many wineries in Europe are now canning wines. Some are canned-only brands while others are established wineries. There are a few sizes of canned wines: the standard canned size, 375 ml, which equals a half-bottle of wine; the slender 250 ml can, which is almost two glasses of wine; and the new 187 ml can, which is a single-serving.

A tip? Go ahead and drink it now, because canned wine isn’t meant to age.

“You’re not going to want to age anything in a can. It’s like screwcaps, drink it now. I’ve always been told that 98 percent of the wines produced are to drink right now,” said Fish.

According to both Fish and Johnson, for a new product, local residents have eagerly responded to canned wines.

“We love it, have had a wonderful success with it. The first day we brought them in, we brought in 164 cans, and we sold 93 of them in the first day,” said Johnson.

When asked if they thought all wines would eventually be canned, especially in light a lack of glass recycling, both Fish and Johnson felt it would be unlikely, or at least would be a long way off. But they said you can expect to see more wineries canning wines in the future.

“Virginia wines are still very pricey, compared to a $10 South African cabernet, which is very easy to can and sell for $5. If you have a $50 bottle of Virginia wine, you’re not going to can it. But one of the larger (wineries) that produce tons of wines may be thinking of it.”

“This takes the oomp, the romance out of wine when you’re popping a top. But it is an up-and-coming market,” said Johnson.

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