When Will The Innovation Stop
My buddy Mike made some wine in a can, not just a still wine in a can, but secondary fermentation in an aluminium can. Whatever next?
Ok, hear the inspiration for this;
I can’t quite remember the where and the why, Mike will tell you more, but at some point last year, Mike threw together an “off the cuff batch of cider”, that was about 6% abv and fermented dry. Then with some wine yeast, did a secondary ferment to make it fizzy. Relatively normal practice so far.
After that it goes a bit off the rails. The ‘concept’ was to add some liqueur de triage to the still cider, with a target pressure of 3.5bar, then, in Mike’s words “can the bugger”.
You read that right, the secondary ferment vessel wasn’t a standard glass bottle like they do in Sussex, and it wasn’t a closed stainless steel tank like they do in, well, also Sussex. BUT, in a little 200ml aluminium can.
No, it apparently didn’t explode, and yes, the technical specifications didn’t advise trying it. It’s done now, and apparently it’s worked. I think Mike intends to try something on a larger scale next year.
I mean, to be fair, if you follow BinTwo on Instagram, you’ll have probably seen some other antics from the UK’s smallest registered winery1. Such as Fizzy BumBum pet Nat, and some pretty smart looking Orange wines.
Is Cider Wine?
While looking up some info on Mike’s fermentation in can, the difference in literature between cider annd grape-wine is interesting.
If you google “sugar in cider fermentation”, it’s just home-brew forums taking a punt.
If you google “sugar in wine fermentation” there’s 100’s and 100’s of scientific research papers.
Spare me the conversation about whether wine made from apples is ‘wine’ or not, it is.
I fret more about how narrow our definition of commoditised, even natural ‘wine’ has become. To the point that we’re not allowed to use any other fruits in there.
Unlike pretty much every other alcoholic booze, wine has this pristine “grape based beverage”narrative, that has essentially existed for tax and education purposes.
It’s a redundant point anyway, because the point I’m making is innovation in production and formats, not raw materials. So pipe down at the back.
Tommy Grimshaw at Langham Wine Estate in Dorset tried something equally unadvisable in 2021, a subtly less conventional sparkling wine.
Draught wine is a tough sell at the best of times. Largely confined to forward thinking indies selling premium wines in an eco-conscious manner, and that red-faced loon from JD Wetherspoons selling Chilean Chardonnay by the Brew Dog branded 4-pint jug.
The base was Chardonnay and Madeline Angevine as a white, and Tomm’s take on an ill-advised secondary fermentation was to do it inside the 20ltr Key-Kegs3. It worked, and the wine is available on draught in a few pubs and bars in the south west. I got to try it and it was properly lovely.
I spoke to Tommy and he’s still making it, and it’s ticking over. Langham are making about 40 x 20ltr kegs per year now.
Tommy reminds me you wouldn’t be able to do a fully traditional method in a Key-Keg because disgorging one is something not even Tommy wants to attempt.
The Customer is Always Right
It’s tough because the innovations make sense, but the only people4 seeing proper success with canned wine or draught wine are the big players.
It might be something to do with minimum production runs for this sort of thing, most canned wine runs on a commercial scale are a minimum of 10,000 units. That’s a little bit out of the reach of most people, particularly English producer. The equivalent is 2,000 litres, or 2,500 x 75cl bottles in 200ml cans. It’s still a gamble.
The vineyard I work for Flint, in Norfolk recently canned a single barrel of hazy. Orange bacchus as the first release in our ‘Flint Labs’ project, and we struggled to find someone to run just 240 litres of wine down their canning line for us.
Either way, innovation gotta start somewhere, but it’s tricky when the people who want to do the innovation are hampered by the complexities of doing it on a small scale, when bigger players can overcome those hurdles much more efficiently. Trade that off with a lower level of excitement of the booze inside the larger scale innovative format.
Essential reading on the future of wine from Simon J Woolf.
“Are growth and volume really the only way that the health of the wine industry can be measured?”
“If you scour the statistics, it becomes clear that the biggest losses in wine sales are in the mass-market sector. I use the phrase ‘commodity wine’ to describe what are usually budget priced wines sold in major supermarkets - €8 or under in the EU, $10 or under in the US.”
I think that is a fact.
Key-Keg told Tommy they couldn’t help in any capacity.
In the UK, at least.
I’m 40 now, but I say trendy ironically. Honest.