Wine in a can is growing globally but how does the quality stack up?

- joellethom­ Words Joelle Thomson

Can or glass? Give me a glass of wine every time, unless I happen to be at a music gig, outside, without a wine bottle in sight and no chance of smuggling one in. Which, of course, I have done, being a wine devotee and all that jazz. So, wine in cans is growing and apparently it’s not only about the convenienc­e.

The perception of wine as snobbish is one of the impetuses to repackage it in a less traditiona­l, smaller format than it has typically been housed in. Another impetus is to tap into the health mindset of “less is more”. Drink a wine or even two, without committing to a whole bottle which, once open, can be a tricky propositio­n for many people to juggle. Tip: put all open wine in the fridge, whether it’s red, white or sparkling. It will reduce the risk of oxidation from light and fluctuatin­g temperatur­es, preserving it for longer, but I digress.

One of New Zealand’s smallest wine regions is home to a wine product with surprising growth. That region is the Wairarapa and the product is canned wine. Winemakers Chris and Cath Archer of Joiy Wines will double production this year to meet global demand. They were the first to export canned wine from New Zealand and now produce over

700,000 cans each year. Canned wine is growing by 13 per cent annually and is projected to reach over $807 million by 2028.

Wine in cans is pretty new in this part of the world and it is tarred with a negative brush in perception, due to poor-quality wine in cans in Europe, but that is changing. “The consumer perception of shelf life with cans is because the products typically used with cans have a short shelf life. We have cans that have been down for over five years and their developmen­t has been equivalent to the expected age, and free sulphur dioxide is better than expected compared to glass,” says Cath Archer, founder and managing director of Archer McRae Beverages, which owns Joiy Wines.

Freshness in the short to medium term may be covered, as is the convenienc­e of small-format packaging, but what about the taste?

Chris Archer sources grapes from a wide range of regions in order to retain quality, consistenc­y and a broad range.

“Joiy was all about making wine accessible to all people for all occasions, not restrictin­g it to an on-the-table experience and the sometimes daunting prospect of opening a full standard bottle,” he says.

The couple is far from alone in making canned wine. Other local producers include Brancott Estate, Selaks and Yealands. Quality varies, as does the success internatio­nally. The next step for Joiy is seltzer in a can, but that’s another story.

Establishe­d as the world’s premier Māori-owned and operated winery, Tohu Wines is an important member of the Whakatū (Nelson)based whānau business Kono.

The tūpuna (ancestors) of these whānau were kaitiaki of the whenua, wai māori and moana – farmers, fishermen, planters and providores. They were astute, creative and entreprene­urial. Being a whānau business, Tohu has a responsibi­lity to uphold that legacy of its owners and their ancestors in its practices and to enhance the resources and whenua passed down through generation­s. Ensuring that sustainabi­lity and responsibi­lity is a 500-year intergener­ational plan, created by the owners and parent organisati­on.

Today, Tohu create internatio­nally recognised award-winning wines, all while remaining true to their deeply held values, which include hihiritang­a, kaitiakita­nga and manaakitan­ga – doing things better, guardiansh­ip and caring. Striving to be good ancestors is intrinsic to being Māori and for those who choose to work with the whenua.

Whenua Awa, meaning “land by the river”, is the Marlboroug­h vineyard planted in 2002 by Tohu Wines. It’s an idyllic spot nestled in the upper reaches of the Awatere Valley, sitting 200 metres above sea level on stony river terraces. With views out to the Pacific Ocean and the mighty mountain Tapuae-oUenuku (footsteps of Uenuku, the rainbow god) rising behind it, the vineyard is not only naturally beautiful, but also produces some of the best grapes in the world.

Of the 121 hectares that make up Whenau Awa, 72 hectares are a vineyard with the balance made up of slopes and terraces with a mixture of native plant species which have been planted over a number of years. Tohu has planted new seedlings in the vineyard this spring.

Tohu is documentin­g the life cycle of their seedlings online: you can follow their social media to keep up to date.

Each Tohu range has been crafted with aroha (love) and is a gift from their land to us.

 ?? ?? Joelle Thomson is a writer and author of 15 books about wine. She chairs the wine writers’ session at this year’s Hamilton Book Month and regularly blogs.
Joelle Thomson is a writer and author of 15 books about wine. She chairs the wine writers’ session at this year’s Hamilton Book Month and regularly blogs.
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