When the summertime hits, wine connoisseurs have always faced a dilemma.
Lounging at the pool or enjoying a backyard barbecue would be a perfect opportunity for a nice glass of white wine or a crisp rosé. But lugging a bottle, some glasses and corkscrew to these outdoor settings isn’t always possible.
Beer drinkers could always grab a can of their favorite brew. The cold chill of aluminum was cheap domestic lager, or a soda, right? No refined wine drinker would be caught sipping out of a can, the thinking went.
Mallow Run Winery is challenging that mindset with its expanding line of canned wine. After releasing a limited edition traminette last summer in a handy-to-transport can, the Bargersville winery has returned with not only its traminette but a pair of new hybrid wines in red and white.
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The winery is the only one in Indiana, and one of the few wineries outside the West Coast, serving their wine in aluminum cans.
“Wine is very romantic, but sometimes it can be very cumbersome. You have to remember a corkscrew, glasses and those things. Cans, you don’t need anything. It’s easy to take, it fits in your cooler and you’re ready to go,” said Sarah Shadday, marketing director for Mallow Run Winery.
Canned wine is a growing trend across the country. From 2015 to 2016, sales of it more than doubled from $6.4 million to $14.5 million, according to the Nielsen Company, which helps track wine sales among other things.
Mostly initiated by smaller wineries in California and Oregon, the trend has attracted the attention of mammoth producers and companies as well. Barefoot Wine released a pair of wine spritzers in cans this year, and Trader Joe’s offers a four-pack of Simpler Wine sparkling wine for just $4.
Union Wine Co., based near Portland, Oregon, releases its Underwood line of wines in both bottles and cans. The company has been one of the leaders of the canned beer movement. This year, their canned line, including pinot noir, pinot gris and rosé, will represent 50 percent of the winery’s business, said Ryan Harms, winemaker and owner of Union Wine Company.
Canned wine offers advantages for Union, costing 40 percent less to package than a traditional case of bottles. The product also is more portable, and makes wine more accessible to more people.
“One idea behind the introduction of the can was a hope that by putting wine into a vessel that is common to many consumers that they would feel more comfortable with drinking wine. You can’t easily sniff or swirl wine in a can. It forces you to just drink it and enjoy it without overthinking the activity,” Harms said.
Mallow Run Winery had found success last year with a canned wine. Though it had sold cider in cans as far back as 2015, the winery’s 100 Canned Traminette was a new venture for Mallow Run. The idea was, in celebration of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, it would produce a wine that you could take to the track, among other places.
“Well, you can’t take glass to the track, and we wanted to do something to honor the race that you actually could take out there,” Shadday said. “There are sometimes limitations with glass, because you can’t take it to the pool or the beach, so it lets wine drinkers join everybody else.”
The response to the canned wine was positive from about 99 percent of Mallow Run’s customers, so the winery team considered expanding the line.
They already were working on a project highlighting varieties of wines made with hybrid grapes that grow so well in Indiana.
Indiana’s climate makes growing certain kinds of grapes impossible. Cold winters, March and April frosts, rain during the ripening period of late spring and blistering hot summers rule out all but a few varietals of wine grape, according to Bruce Borderlon, professor of viticulture at Purdue University.
In a Purdue Extension publication called “Grape Varieties for Indiana,” Bordelon wrote, “Consistent production of high-quality grapes requires properly matching the variety to the climate of the vineyard site.”
Hybrids, bred from wild and existing cultivated grapes, were created to thrive in Indiana. Some of the best-growing grapes include traminette, vidal blanc, chardonel and seyval blanc.
“Our climate doesn’t allow us to grow some of the big-name grapes that people know, the cabernet savignon, the pinot grigio. There’s a reason those are all California wines,” Shadday said. “What is growing in Indiana and the Midwest are hybrid grapes.”
Those grapes have been blended into a special white hybrid release. To accompany the white version, a red hybrid release uses the Leon Millot grape, created in France in the early 20th century to grow well in colder climates.
“We thought it would be a way to showcase these great grapes and what Indiana is growing,” Shadday said.
With the unique focus on hybrid wines, Mallow Run officials thought it would pair well with the burgeoning canned wine trend. The two new canned wines were released in late June, Hybrid Red and Hybrid White.
“That whole concept of hybrids as part European, part American. Hybrid cars are part gas and part electric. The can is part refined wine, part casual. That release in particular would be a lot of fun to can,” Shadday said.
The increasing market of canned wines is breaking down some of the stigmas around wine-drinkers. New services also are springing up to help wineries can their product without investing in their own canning line equipment.
Mallow Run uses a company called Indiana Mobile Canning, which loads up its equipment on a box truck to drive to where canning needs to be done. Workers can have a batch of beer, or in this case wine, canned in about four hours.
That allows breweries and wineries to focus more on their specialty of creating their product, while Indiana Mobile Canning handles the packaging, said Andrew McLean, founder of Indiana Mobile Canning.
The final batch of Hybrid White came off the canning line in late June, and the two new canned wines were unveiled to the public on June 24. Though the Hybrid products will be available throughout the year, summertime seemed like the natural season to pop the top on a new line, Shadday said.
“We know it’s going to be more popular in the summer, since they’re outside and going places where it might be more appropriate for wine in a can,” she said. “It’ll still be good in the winter, but it’s definitely a summer release for a reason.”
With a holiday weekend on tap, Johnson County breweries and wineries have you covered. In addition to Mallow Run Winery’s new line of canned wines, here are some summertime selections to keep you cool this weekend.
Who: MashCraft Brewing Co.
Description: Released on a semi-annual basis by the Greenwood-based brewery, Callisto is an apricot wheat wine with a mild tartness.
Who: Quaff On! Brewing Co.
Description: Fill up a growler at Big Woods Franklin and sit out in the sun with this version of the hefeweizen, a slightly cloudy, unfiltered dry beer with some spiciness.
Who: Oaken Barrel Brewing Co.
Description: This longtime favorite is brewed with fresh Oregon raspberries, with a slightly sweet flavor and clean finish balancing the crisp, citrus-like tones of wheat malt and the tartness of the berries without overpowering the natural flavor of the beer.
Peach Pit IPA
Who: Shale Creek Brewing Co.
Description: The regular hoppy bitterness of an India pale ale is balanced with the sweetness of peach flavors, with neither overpowering the other.
Who: Taxman Brewing Co.
Description: Taxman Brewing created a special summer saison using local wildflower and orange blossom honey. The resulting beer features a bouquet of floral and citrus flavors, while fermentation with the brewery’s funky saison yeast injects complex farmhouse characteristics.
Who: River City Winery
Description: Indiana-grown traminette grapes are the base of this wine, which is infused with mango for a beverage best enjoyed on the beach.