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Wine in a what?

A decade ago Australia-based Barokes developed Vinsafe&trade, a patented process that includes the specifications for the premium wine, can lining and filling requirements. Since 1997, it has been packing 250-ml aluminum cans that can produce a shelf life of up to five years – perhaps not the graceful aging wine enthusiasts clamor for.

Currently holding patents in Australia, Japan, Singapore, South Africa, New Zealand and Europe (25 European Union member counties), and a complex and secretive process consisting of seven phases that will grant you the Vinsafe License. I am still unclear as to how you can patent a process that includes assessment of a winery, recommendations and marketing, but who am I to judge complex legal processes?

Old and new can designs

What I am – happily – able to judge is the improvement in design. While the information of who is responsible for the giant leap eludes me, I think they have succeeded in making a much better job at targeting the sophisticated 20-30-something woman. Personally, I would not have glanced at the old design while shopping but, the new one, maybe. While It does not necessary reflect great quality wine – considering it’s, after all, in a can – I can see it as a medium-quality, easy-to-transport, practical-for-the-picnic drink.

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As the demand for on-the-go products increases, and single-servings become more popular, manufactures are looking for alternative packaging to suit our needs—this has been popular in Europe and Japan for quite some time, and is now just making its way to the U.S. consumer. Many of these handy wines are introduced in the hippest of situations, such as trendy clubs in New York, Los Angeles and Miami; or by putting it in the hands of an appropriately appointed celebrity:

Rich Prosecco created a simple, somewhat sleek can that prompts a double-take about the contents (proseccco?), and its associations (in a can?!). Not your typical wine, but not your typical beach cooler spritzey drink either. With a design stuck in between the elegant and sophisticated, and the bland and generic, they at least stand out from the blasting/splashing/dripping/bursting graphics found in many cans in any given category: wine, soda, tea or energy.

Any celebrity endorsement comes with its own baggage and none is heavier than Miss Hilton’s. Any positive qualities that the design might have helped build are quickly put to the test when the marketing machine gets hold of a camera and starts shooting:

How can it be that while one team (the designers – I assume, and hope, there is a design team) is trying to elevate the idea surrounding wine in a can by producing something with design in mind (I don’t think this is stellar design, but it could be a lot worse), while allowing the other team, that of the advertisers, to throw it all out the window by selecting the cheapest and skankiest spokesperson possible?

It is interesting to note that Prosecco is produced in Italy’s Veneto area (purchased and distributed by an Austrian company), but not sold in Italy due to a nation-wide law that allows wine to be sold only in bottles.

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On the other hand, Niebaum-Coppola Winery (owned by film director Francis Ford Coppola) wanted to join the single-serving wagon with its Sofia Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine (named after his daughter Sofia Coppola). Originally wanting to sell it in “splits” (187 ml bottles, think giftey “half bottles”), but unable to find a quality packaging company to work with, they explored alternatives. Not attracted by the airline-style screw caps – another contentious “innovation” among wine fans – they contemplated the can and saw its potential. And rather than target the usual outlet of liquour shops, it has been testing out the sleek pink cans at high-end nightclubs in cities like Miami, Las Vegas and San Francisco.

It goes for the “Sex and the City” crowd of sophisticated female city-dwellers who order it by name and can easily hold it while partying or lounging by the pool. It looks chick, sophisticated-girly, elegant and fun. Too bad they did not go the extra mile with the typography by refining the details (especially in the curve) or creating custom typefaces that had the potential of really making a difference – Louise Fili’s work comes quickly to mind.

Having started by word-of-mouth, as they introduce the product nation-wide in the near future they will be using print ads in magazines like Paper and Surface. In the meantime you can visit the official site and get a tasting of the brand by clicking on photos, listening to music and catching extra short videos of Sofia. With her Sofias.

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The big issues, of course, remain: Taste, quality, perception.

Does the metal influence the taste at all? They claim it does not, but I am no expert and I have my doubts as anything left in a can long enough does taste metallic. The quality of the wine is the same as when it is bottled, so how do you jump over the oenological faux-pas of wine in a can? How do you attract the new generation of image-conscious, post-college drinkers? How do you maintain your reputation and scoff skepticism from wine connoisseurs? The answer is – or, well, could be – design. Design of the can, design of the message, the image, the advertising, the appeal, the quality, the price and ultimately the design of the image of the individuals the wine must appeal to. Perhaps then, wine in a can will stand the test of time.

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ENTRY DETAILS
ARCHIVE ID 2791 FILED UNDER Critique
PUBLISHED ON Oct.05.2006 BY bryony
WITH COMMENTS
Comments
Su’s comment is:

Prosecco: That can means "energy drink" by now. I'm always surprised when somebody tries to use it for anything else. (I think Starbucks still does, but given it's coffee, maybe they get a sort of pass.) Other than that, they definitely veered a little too much towards Classy and ended up at generic. Combined with the can, it kinda looks like an energy drink that's uppity yet simultaneously downmarket because nobody knows who the hell they are.
The skank doesn't help. Makes me think of the Red Bull ads with the can causing a...bulge in a pair of underwear. Which is now being blatantly ripped—or one-upped, I guess—by Four, who are peppering the area with branded condoms sporting the URL four-playlonger.com. Image forthcoming.

The Sofia box is trying way too hard and just comes across like a fancy Christmas tin of say, Almond Roca(Welcome home, Roxy Carmichael...) The can makes me think of Tab all growed up.

On Oct.05.2006 at 06:47 PM
P.J. Onori’s comment is:

I'm aware that I am completely biased and unyielding to traditional ways, but wine in a can seems like the new spin on wine in a box. No matter the quality of the design, there seems to be a impassable hurdle in the medium of the packaging.

I'd be curious if anyone else felt this way.

On Oct.05.2006 at 08:50 PM
Diane Witman’s comment is:

Great discussion. I am absolutely fascinated with the sleek skins of energy drinks and most recently wine. I tried the new TAB in a can targeting young females looking for energy, it didn't give me an energy nor did it taste as good as it looked.

I am most surprised that no one has brought up beer. Isn't beer the closest thing to compare this to? Beer in a can was first introduced in 1963 by Coors Brewing Company. Visit the East Taunton Beer Can Museum online for fascinating examples. I'm sure the transition from bottle to can was a difficult bringing up questions of the effect on the taste for one. Considering the history, it is no doubtedly a young packaging method but it may prove valuable in the survival of wine and similar beverages.

Some other interesting canned items I found: -In Russian local markets, strong alcohols such as Vodka are available in aluminium cans.
-In Japan, canned fresh air is available. This is most popular in the Tokyo area.

Although it may seem like a stretch for the ever-so-sophisticated wine, it may not be such a bad idea for the longevity of wine.

On Oct.05.2006 at 09:29 PM
Joe Moran’s comment is:

But what does Robert Parker, Jr. say?

If its ok by him. I'll try it.

R/

On Oct.05.2006 at 10:47 PM
Mark Notermann’s comment is:

How do you attract the new generation of image-conscious, post-college drinkers?

Start the campaign while your target is in high school-- and hang in there, baby!

On Oct.06.2006 at 02:13 AM
Jeff Gill’s comment is:

I remember when everybody made fun of wine with screw caps, but they have been gaining popularity for some time. Over the past year it seems that just about every big Australian winemaker has switched to screw caps.

-

A few years ago I saw an ad for a single serving champagne called Pop. It came in a blue glass bottle. I've never seen anything of it since.

-

Beer in a can doesn't taste right. The only wine in a can I ever bought was for making gravy. I've yet to see any wine in a can worth drinking (I typically buy mine at Tesco, not at high-end nightclubs in cities like Miami, Las Vegas and San Francisco), although I imagine it will happen someday, just like screw caps. But will it taste just slightly wrong, like beer in a can?

On Oct.06.2006 at 06:07 AM
Armin’s comment is:

When I first saw the cans I was surprised at how not-crappy they were, and that they actually displayed some common design sense that spoke to the idea of wine, as opposed to the idea of wine in a can. While not perfect, the designs of these wines in a can avoided what is an easy and quick slip into tacky territory. I was too young when the wine in a box craze hit, but I remember my dad bringing some home and if I remember correctly they looked more like fruit crates with a nozzle at the end than viable, drinkable wines – and today, wine in a box has become a (elitist perhaps) punchline.

> I am most surprised that no one has brought up beer. Isn't beer the closest thing to compare this to?

I would venture out to say that most mass-consumed beer does not have the same associations that wine does, making it more viable as a "lower-end" can option – with heineken being the only ones to take it up a notch. In Mexico, for example, Tecate I think only exists in a can and it's one of the most popular beers. (Side story... About ten years ago, I was driving from Mexico to Acapulco, a sea-side town, in what was then a brand new super highway where you could easily go 120 mph; at one of the toll booths, there were some babes handing out Tecates as you slowed down to pay. Just like that: Free beer while you drive on a superfast freeway. True story.)

Anyway... without beer in a can what would frat boys smash against their heads after they were done chugging?

On Oct.06.2006 at 08:07 AM
Mark.S.’s comment is:

Five things that shouldn't come in a can.
1 Cheese
2 Scented air
3 Anything from Piero Manzoni
4 Bananas
5 Wine

On Oct.06.2006 at 08:30 AM
elv’s comment is:

I think cans are usually used as a cheap alternative to small glass bottles. If you produce huge quantities it makes sense. But usually huge quantities mean low to average quality. Look at the beers in your supermarket, quality beers are in glass bottles.
In France we also have wines in plastic bottles or even cartons (just like milk), but they are VERY low quality stomach churning ones that taste like vinegar...
So trying to sell good wine in a can seems to me like selling perfume in plastic shampoo bottle.

On Oct.06.2006 at 10:06 AM
Randy J. Hunt’s comment is:

I can buy into the can in the context of clubs. This doesn't land too far from those coke M2 or M3 bottles. Not the same aesthetic or even the same intended audience, but along the same thinking:
They seem cool. They seem new. They're small and probably spill less.

In a club, this pink can may even be sexy. It's hot. No, it's hott.

Sadly, it's not romantic. Wine in aluminum will never have the romance of wine in a bottle. I'd place money on that.

On Oct.06.2006 at 10:32 AM
Diane Witman’s comment is:

I agree that cans are in no way a more attractive way of packaging any item than a bottle. Bottles are sexier, and they always have an air of sophistication. Having to pop the cork instead of the tab is much more interesting. But being a 26-year old who enjoys wine I would absolutely try the cans in a heartbeat. I love my soda in a can, never in a plastic bottle or from a fountain. I am a generation brought up on the can, and when you are trying to reach that market a can seems like a pretty good idea.

I have tried Sofia sparkling wine (in a bottle) and it was great. This weekend I will be seeking out the cans just to see if there is a major difference between the taste in the two packages.

On Oct.06.2006 at 11:41 AM
Tim Lapetino’s comment is:

This doesn't land too far from those coke M2 or M3 bottles. Not the same aesthetic or even the same intended audience, but along the same thinking:

That's what I was thinking as I read this. Could you split the difference and try aluminum bottles as a package design? The aluminum bottle is a step up from the can, but could act like the funky, young cousin of the traditional glass bottle. As a nearing-thirty guy who scoffs at lame beer and wine-in-a-box, I would surely give aluminum-bottled wine a chance.

On Oct.06.2006 at 12:43 PM
Doug B’s comment is:

Most of the backlash against aluminum is purely aesthetic, much like the backlash against stelvin (twist-off) wine caps has been in the past few years. The reality: stelvin caps are better for the wine. No bad corks, thus no corked wine. Bonny Doon vineyard (CA) has led the charge here in the US. Beer housed in aluminum cans is just better than beer in a bottle. There's no UV light damage due to light passing thru the glass bottle. Have you ever had a 'skunked' Heineken? If so, try one of the Heineken cans. Better.

It's an uphill battle to convince the true connoisseur that a twist-off bottle of wine could be as good (or better) than the traditional corked version. And there is a loss of some of the romance associated with uncorking a bottle of wine, but I'll take the 'uncorked' glass of wine every time. Besides, you're pouring it in glass anyway. Does it matter if it came from a glass bottle or alumnium can...

On Oct.06.2006 at 01:50 PM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

Maybe it's just that anyone who likes finer wine, thinks bottles and corks reassuring. I've tasted some recent screw topped wines and maybe it's that they make average to mediocre wine anyway, but the taste is "off". Aluminum has a taste.

Besides, I love old European labels and I design new ones lately, so I'm biased. You want it in cans? Fine.

Why does something that's worked alright for decades have to be changed? My wild guess is that the aluminum industry is convincing wineries that Americans love anything consumable in screw top/pop top cans. I watch people consume huge amounts of those energy drinks like thirsty Energizer Bunnies on Meth and who can argue with success?

Besides, cork is becoming expensive. Traditionalists will find a way to keep it traditional.

On Oct.08.2006 at 11:24 AM
Su’s comment is:

Without going so far as screw-tops, weren't plastic/rubber(? can't remember which) corks finally making headway?

On Oct.08.2006 at 01:43 PM
Jeff Gill’s comment is:

I go through a couple bottles of wine a week in the £7-10 range (not sure where that fits in Pesky's scale). My experience is that about 60% are screw top (almost none are French). I have also noticed that there are a lot of wines more expensive than that with screw tops. Of the 40% that have corks about a third are synthetic.

I think it is more fun to open a bottle with a cork (no, I don't have a fancy corkscrew; my most expensive one cost £5), but it's not that big a deal to me.

Pesky, In the screw-capped wines, the wine doesn't touch any metal because the interiors of the caps are coated with plastic.

Doug B, Beer in cans may win some blind taste tests, but that is not th whole story, unless your friend is pouring it into a glass for you in a room far enough away so that you can't see the can or hear it being opened. If you are going to drink from the container or pour it yourself, glass bottles win every time. Glass feels nicer to drink from, is nicer to hold, keeps the beer cold longer, and looks better. So I don't really care what empirical proof you have to offer, even if it is just psychological (and I don't think it is), beer from a bottle tastes better when you consider the entire drinking experience.

Having said all that, if someone offered me some half-decent wine in can, I wouldn't say no.

On Oct.08.2006 at 04:35 PM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

Jeff, You're probably more right than I am. I've been reading today - after I posted - that the caps have some new technology that keeps it untainted by metal. And the synthetic plastic corks which are appearing seem OK. I'm not a wine snob by any means, but I just don't like the idea of canned wine. I guess the point I was trying to make was that wine is not only organically complex and subtle, but in a state of development until it's consumed.

I've been working on a new wine label over this weekend too. It's a lot of fun.

On Oct.08.2006 at 07:37 PM
mister worms’s comment is:

I would add Safety to the list of big issues. The can isn't a purely aesthetic problem. If something in a can tastes metallic after a while the even the average joe could assume you're also drinking the packaging. Pretty gross and scary, too, if you ask me. As far as I have learned glass is one of the most inert food containers so more points for wine in a bottle, especially since its' enjoyment is dependent on complexities in its flavor and aroma - messing with that says lower quality product or that quality doesn't matter. You can't make up for that with all the swirly scrolls and elegant type in the world. I'm in the target audience but I wouldn't buy or drink wine from a can in a million years.

On Oct.09.2006 at 01:02 PM
mister worms’s comment is:

I would add Safety to the list of big issues. The can isn't a purely aesthetic problem. If something in a can tastes metallic after a while the even the average joe could assume you're also drinking the packaging. Pretty gross and scary, too, if you ask me. As far as I have learned glass is one of the most inert food containers so more points for wine in a bottle, especially since its' enjoyment is dependent on complexities in its flavor and aroma - messing with that says lower quality product or that quality doesn't matter. You can't make up for that with all the swirly scrolls and elegant type in the world. I'm in the target audience but I wouldn't buy or drink wine from a can in a million years.

On Oct.09.2006 at 01:04 PM
Bryony’s comment is:

Do you think that for those who are just learning about wine, first introducing taste buds to grape heaven with the little information that they (decide) to have would find the cans appealing? Does the design accomplish this? Does it not? We are focusing on the taste of the metal, in or out, but we are not the key target market.

We have an ongoing relationship with wine, we are aware of the no-nos associated with packaging and etiquette, but what if you were a wine-virgin shopping for the first time?

On Oct.09.2006 at 05:48 PM
Joe Moran’s comment is:

Dear Bryony,

Not everyone knows about wine. This is the US of F***ingA.

Where is Wine?

Nowhere... sadly.

Cans. Beautiful. Corks. Missing.

Too scary!

VR,

On Oct.09.2006 at 10:39 PM
Bryony’s comment is:

Joe, I am aware that not everyone knows about wine. I am asking those who do, how much influence design has in their honest opinion, based on the amount of knowledge they have at hand.

On Oct.10.2006 at 01:47 PM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

When the winery named Mad Wine, which produces Aquinas Wines, started using my Not Caslon letter "A'" for their label, I just had to keep buying it. How's that for focusing my commitment?

On Oct.10.2006 at 03:04 PM
Michelle French’s comment is:

Wine is a voyage of discovery and refinement of palate. For those of us in the US, particularly those in the "Bible Belt," we first rebelled against our Southern Baptist culture (or lack thereof) by drinking either "pink" wine or wine coolers.

The people who make that stuff do not have any illusions that they are making a quality product—they are introducing the concept of drinking wine to a young audience. The package and graphics are targeted to that audience.

While I cannot think of an instance in which I would be seduced to drink wine out of a Tab can (I don't even drink beer out of a can), I often try new vintages just to reward them for paying a designer to create a lovely label.

Mark, I'll be sure to pick up a bottle of Aquinas just for you.

On Oct.11.2006 at 10:25 AM
Joe Moran’s comment is:

Mrs. Vit,

Ha! :-)

I would strongly advise everyone to at least look at the Wine Advocate ( if your store subscribes to it. )

If it doesn't -- look for a better wine store.

Mr. Parker is really smart and knows about wine. No sense in drinking blindly. He's tasted a few thousand wines in his time. And he can recommend really good wines under $10 EE. UU., too. As I recall, his scale is from 1-100.

And if you have the money -- try Opus One -- by Mr. Robert Mondavi and Baroness Rothschild. (link) I last tasted the 1995 vintage ~ I think. *hik* (It cost me over 120 clams.) Worth every penny. Their winery is very impressive, too. I think it was featured in the Wine Advocate way back when ---

Opus One will really make you rethink wine in a can -- or anything else for that matter. Let it breathe...

VR. nice lady/

On Oct.13.2006 at 05:16 PM
french LAION’s comment is:

SALUT TOUT LE MONDE!
I didnt know that you could be so retro, like in France
The purpose of winecan is not to replace the bottle but just to propose a new way to drink wine, when it s not easy to open a bottle
the purpose is not to please the connaisseurs and the profession (always whinning first and then following like sheeps) but to please the consumer

the most important is the
Q U A L I T Y
I am sure that it must be good cause they must have in mind to avoid having it laughed at and then bankrupt

MORE HYGIENIC (think about the microbes in the cork!), the wine doesnt touch the aluminium, thanks to the inside protection

BETTER CONSERVATION longevity and stability, no light, no corked, no oxydisation

most of the wines are made in INOX TANKS, the first growths too (petrus, latour...during fermentation and maceration)
and very often the wines are longer in these inox tanks than in a bottle, cause the wine is put into bottles a few days before being in the shops, so that you drink a wine that was in inox tanks for months, and a few days in bottle, ok?

ELEGANT MODERN DESIGN

FRENCH PARADOX, 25or37CL per day reduces by 50% heart disease (only red wine tannic with polyphenols, especially BORDEAUX, not soft wines without tannins)

25CL YOU CAN DRIVE ! (ALCOOL POLICY)

M A R K E T I N G

SMALL CONTAINERS ARE "EN VOGUE"
IMMEDIACY CONVENIANCY in today s "ON THE GO" lifestyle
SNACKING (why not mcdonald ?)
OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES (not only camping, golf too)

SINGLE PERSONNS (in france 2 mariages on 3 dvorce, in Paris 3on4 !)
NO OPENER (easier for old people)
AIRPLANES TRAINS
NIGHT CLUBS (dust off the wine image towards young)
RESTAURANTS (cheaper and more "tracability" hygienic than a glass of wine, you dont know when the bottle was open, how it was poured...)

WORKERS (building trade...)

BETTER FOR TRANSPORT AND LOGISTIC
unbreakable
smaller stock place

CHEAPER THAN PICOLOS (small bottles 18cl)and 2 glasses in a bar

the wine is in a great CRISIS so I think this is a great innovation to attract new consumers

those who think that you must open a bottle only with friends are stupid
the single or the man whose wife doesnt drink has not the right to drink a can of wine ?
if he opens a bottles, it will be oxydised after a few days, super ! so he doesnt and participates to the crisis

with this innovation everybody can drink wine where when he wants !!!!!!!!!

ok?

On Oct.31.2006 at 09:55 AM
tasterspoon’s comment is:

Commenting not as a designer (I'm not) but an interested wine "user"...

I appreciate all the arguments for the single-serve convenience of canned wine - portability and freshness - and am not persuaded that any aluminum taste would transfer.

My main reluctance in buying wine-in-a-can for anything other than novelty purposes would indeed be in the nature of wine - I thought part of the wine-drinking experience was meant to be aromatic, and you can't smell a thing from a can. Friends brought a six pack of sparkling wine to a New Years party and they were a huge hit, really fun, but we drank them with the (accompanying) straws and it was really just soda with an alcoholic kick. (V. hangover-inducing, incidentally.)

If all I wanted was a convenient alcohol delivery mechanism in a club or even at home I'd order a cocktail, or even one of those malt beverages, not wine.

Maybe they'll start putting mixed drinks in cans - that I could definitely see a market for.

On Aug.17.2007 at 05:57 PM