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Kaddy Exclusives

OPINION: How can we convince consumers to drink canned wine?

June 2, 2022

Following her excellent Kaddy opinion piece article about the problem with how we speak about wine comes the latest Tijana Laganin opinion piece, this time with the challenge of convincing consumers to drink wine in a can.

“I think I can, I think I can” – a four-word mantra from ‘the Little Engine that Could’. It is this eight-syllable self-affirmation that helps the little engine overcome a seemingly impossible task.

Unlike the locomotive, we as wine drinkers, hold our reservations. We think beer can, RTD can, soft drinks can, but for some reason, we think wine… can’t.

Why is it that we resist taking up this aluminium form of packaging? What is the turnoff with wine in a can?

Seeing as we are all friends here, I’d be lying if I said I too didn’t hold reservations. Some introspection reveals that I am a closet wine snob. Whilst some women match handbags to their outfits … I match (bottled) Chardonnay with bulbous, open-mouthed Riedel glasses.

But behind this crystal façade, I am also (shamefully?) familiar with a drinking game titled ‘Goon of Fortune’. For those who don’t know of this magnificent Australian pastime, ignore me and refrain from googling its definition, as you’ll realise I have no right to judge canned wine as low-brow.

But why is wine laced with pretentiousness? And why is there a fear of breaking the status quo?

Paramount Pictures made a movie with a similar theme… Mean Girls. But instead of Regina George, we have Nuit-Saint-Georges drinkers. And unless you are Elon Musk, you’re not going home to crack a bottle of Grand Cru after a bad day or during a Seinfeld re-run. In the words of Kendrick Lamar “be humble”.

Okay, so a little more empathy and a little less ego is the start to a ‘CAN do attitude’ (boom tish).

To gain a better understanding and open a narrow mind, I reached out to Tommy O’Donnell from Riot Wine Co - a producer specialising in can and keg wine.

Founded in 2016, Riot set out to reinvent ‘by the glass’ wine. Inspired by the problem many of us encounter - throwing out half-empty bottles of wine because you only wanted a glass or two. How often have you ended up with a hangover because you didn’t want to see wine go to waste?

‘Moderation’, is a driving force behind Riot Wine Co – as Tommy puts it: “better wine, less often”. However, in an industry laced with conservatism, things aren’t so simple, as dare I say, the brand’s double-entendre ‘#theriotway’ alludes to. What we forget is that the end consumer is not the wine industry and as Tommy reminds me, they are not conservative.

Unfortunately, the industry has taken advantage of this – with big brands guilty of using the can to dump poor quality wine, the situation not bettered by its sulphide-tainted contents. It is why we can commend the likes of Riot and Brown Brothers, who entered the battlefield with a mere 0.02-millimetre thick aluminium shield. And although the battle has just begun, I am told that for Riot the most powerful weapon is “consistent, high quality”.

Without coming across as a buzzkill, high quality is worthless if there is no one to taste it. It is like singing in the shower. You may be Beyonce, but if there is no one to hear, you’re no closer to a record deal. It is an obstacle the team at Riot understand and why they are heavily investing in third-party endorsements.

“This is a long-term game – everyone doubted the screwcap”, says Tommy, and today screwcaps account for over 90% of Australian wine. The key is to rebuild the confidence of the gatekeepers (retailers and venue operators like you), and the consumers will follow. Cause enough of a riot, and it may lead to a revolution.

We talk about trying to ‘convince’ a consumer, but between you and me, this is where the problem lies. Convincing is a tool humans use to fool themselves into believing something, like “I like the taste of green tea”, “but he’s nice or “I’m a good driver”. They all sound familiar, no?

Wine should not be forced. Not only does it defeat the purpose of an RSA, but it removes the magic. In the world of wine, things take time. Rewind back. Does anyone know when people started loving Chardonnay again? Or how men developed the confidence to order rosé at the bar?

We have had 400 years to accept glass bottles, and I’m sure our predecessors were hesitant to give up their amphorae. Invented in 1996, the can format is still in its infant stage. And whilst I don’t see it being a complete replacement of glass (although stranger things have happened), it is an alternative option based on small format, convenience, and environmental sustainability.

If decaffeinated coffee has a purpose, why can’t canned wine? At the end of the day, isn’t it what’s on the inside that counts!

(Images sourced from Riot Wine Co, & Brown Brothers).