TRAVERSE CITY — Concerns over bringing a bottle to the beach or carrying a corkscrew in a canoe are becoming a thing of the past.
Three area vineyards have popped into the world of canned wine, uncorking a new market with seemingly no logistical limitations.
“Our motto was it’s perfect anytime, take it everywhere,” said Gabe Marzonie, marketing director at Leelanau Cellars in Omena. “We’re going where no glass has gone before. You can take it to the beach, you can take it kayaking, you can take it canoeing, you can take it backpacking.”
“That’s it certainly,” added Marie Chantal-Dalese, president and CEO of Chateau Chantal. “But there are also so many places where glass it not allowed: the pool, the beach, the boat ... safety issues abound. This really cuts through that barrier.”
Chateau Chantal on Old Mission Peninsula, Leelanau Cellars and Ciccone Vineyard and Winery in Leelanau County entered the field of canned wine this year, albeit in much different degrees.
Leelanau Cellars took the biggest leap into the canned wine market, both in volume and commitment.
The company has three offerings — California Winter White Bubbly, Great Lakes Red Bubbly and Summer Sunset Rosé Bubbly — and is the lone area winery that cans in-house. Marzonie said Leelanau Cellars ordered 400,000 cans and already have filled about 300,000.
Leelanau Cellars plans to add one or two more canned wine flavors in 2020 and is considering canned cider as well. 45 North Vineyard and Winery in Lake Leelanau also produces canned cider.
Marzonie said Leelanau Cellars began exploring the concept of canned wine in early 2018 because of the explosion of craft beer production. Many people in the industry also saw canning wine as a developing trend. While Marzonie said that bottled wine “is never going away,” he said there doesn’t seem to be a cap to putting wine in aluminum cans.
“I think that canned wine is here to stay, at least in the short term,” Marzonie said.
Ciccone Vineyard & Winery was a little behind Leelanau Cellars in more ways than one. Vintner Paula Ciccone said the boutique winery tried to debut before Leelanau.
“We had our own personal (friendly) competition,” she said. “I wanted to be the first one in Leelanau County with canned wine. They beat me by a couple of weeks.”
Ciccone Vineyard did set its goal smaller than Leelanau Cellars. Ciccone’s canned wine entry is Nectar, a Pinot Grigot/Chardonnay blend.
“We thought it would be a good summer beach wine,” Ciccone said.
Nectar is delivered much differently. First, it comes in an 8 ounce can. Second, it comes without carbonation. Michigan Mobile Canning of Kalamazoo puts Ciccone wine in aluminum.
“There’s a lot of bubbly out there,” Ciccone said. “We just wanted to enter the market with a still wine.”
While Ciccone went with still wine, Leelanau Cellars and Chateau Chantal took the opposite approach. Marzonie said anything else would feel flat.
“We put bubbly wine in all of our cans, not still wine,” Marzonie said. “We made that decision consciously. You need that carbonation release. You need that sound.”
“I always thought they should be something fun,” Chantal-Dalese added. “I’m not looking to put a fine Pinot Noir into a can.”
Ciccone Vineyard & Winery also produced a canned hard cider this year in 16 ounce cans. In keeping with the scope of Ciccone, which produces less than 3,000 cases of wine annually, Ciccone released about 3,200 cans of Nectar.
Ciccone might add another canned wine in 2020, but Paula Ciccone doesn’t think the vineyard will offer more than two. “Not at this time,” she said.
Chateau Chantal entered into the world of canned wine at the beginning of 2019 with two entries, Bubbly Cherry Wine and Sweet TC, which delivers its white wine, Beguile, in a can with carbonation.
Chateau Chantal has produced about 8,000 of each offering in 12 ounce cans. A winery downstate does the canning for Chateau Chantal.
“We entered the market slowly, but I anticipate ramping things up considerably,” Chantal-Dalese said.
Ciccone said deciding to can wine was more about a chance to diversify.
“I wanted to challenge myself and learn something different, which is the packaging,” Ciccone said. “We wanted to try it for marketing and see how our customers liked it.”
What the wineries found out about canned wine is: It has some benefits.
“It’s easier,” Ciccone said. “It weighs less and they don’t break, but they’re still recyclable.”
“We saw our packaging costs go way down with the cans,” Marzonie said.
There is a note of caution about canned wine. It is not the same as knocking back a couple of beers.
Chantal-Dalese says there are 2½ glasses of wine in each can.
Marzonie said two of the Leelanau Cellars cans of wine are equal to one bottle.
But canned wine can be more than double the alcohol content by volume compared to beer.
“It’s enjoying, but enjoying responsibly,” Marzonie said.