Have you recently noticed people drinking wine out of cans? In the name of innovation we have engineered a way for consumers to buy, store and drink their wine out of aluminium cans. On the face of it, nothing could be more sensible.
Aluminium cans are less fragile to transport. Possibly cheaper to produce. Definitely easier to recycle. All sound observations.
We drink many things out cans. It’s hardly an earthquake of an idea. So, let’s just leave it there.
But I can’t.
Firstly, I didn’t realise wine stored and transported in glass bottles was a problem which needed fixing? But mainly, I can’t help thinking, this is innovation for innovation sake. An idea which appeals to those disenchanted with the established wine paradigm. A way to participate in the glorious history of wine yet still appear different and modern.
Is this simply the next innocent stage in the development of wine containers? Earthenware jugs to goatskin bags to bottles to cardboard boxes to cans. Is it any different to fashion or hairstyles or slang? If so, where is the harm?
But this is where concern sets in. There is a harm, but it has less to do with the packaging and more to do with the message a can of wine conveys.
Until now wine has been mostly enjoyed in company. Whether streamed poetically out of a wineskin on the road to Damascus or poured out of a cardboard box at a park picnic table. And there lies the tiny nubbin of disconsolation. Bottles are made for sharing. Cans are not.
Let us not concern ourselves with the engineering and the technicalities. Is wine in a can able to be cellared or matured? Are wine’s perfume and aromas compromised by drinking straight from the can? Does the consumer experience the wine as the winemaker intended? Does the winemaker even care as long as the wine is purchased and consumed?
Let us not argue the point some make, mainly because it is true, that in today’s world more people are living a solitary life and a whole bottle is just too much. Feel like a glass of wine? No problem. Crack a tinnie. Leave the others in the fridge for tomorrow’s soul-destroying evening at home in front of the idiot-box. Or don’t.
But it is worth arguing for a culture where more is shared rather than less.
Wine in a can screams “solo”. It does not convey the idea this is a product to be shared, discussed and appreciated with others. It reduces the entire wine experience to nothing more than a drink. Like any other. It tells us wine is no longer different or special. It colours the dialogue between winemakers and viticulturalists and wine wankers and book club mums as nothing more than a waste of time.
It’s hard to imagine our world becoming less fragmented. Technology’s Pandora’s box is well and truly open and we will innovate more and more. Although not always for the better. Whatever happens and however precarious things become at least we deserve to retain the ability to talk it out with friends over a bottle of wine.