It’s quite common among wine journalists to end the year (or begin a new one) with predictions for the coming year about the nature of the wine industry. I’m not one to do such massive prognostications, but I do believe that this coming year holds many new things for… well, the things that hold wine.
In the last week of 2020, a new set of regulations was finalized by the TTB (the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) regarding the legal container sizes (technically volumes of fill) in which wine may be sold.
For a few years, while the government has allowed wine to be packaged in 250ml cans for instance, it has not allowed that amount of wine to be sold on its own, forcing producers to group cans into sets in order for them to be legally sold.
The new regulations released last week by the TTB now allow wine to be sold in the following volumes: 355 ml, 250ml, 300 ml, 187ml, 100ml and 50ml.
The most immediate slice of the industry affected by these new options will be those producers selling wine in cans, who are now free to sell on a can-by-by can basis as well as to experiment with smaller volumes.
The options for small bottles of wine, however, are somewhat intriguing, especially in a world where people are stuck at home and interested in trying new things.
The pandemic has driven a surge in at-home tasting kits, which many consumers have found great fun, but the potential for single-serving wine seems greater than simply wine-tasting-to-go experiences.
Wine has taken something of a beating at the hands of the hard seltzer category, in part because those little cans of White Claw are just so damn convenient to grab and chug. Will single-servings of chilled rosé finally help wine regain its picnic-blanket cachet?
Of course, these new fill formats come with the logistical headaches of packaging and filling containers of this size, which are not insignificant for most wineries. Cans have gained some traction in the industry, at least in part, simply because well-proven and established equipment exists for filling them with wine.
Nonetheless, a whole new range of possibilities have just been opened up for wine producers, and undoubtedly, we will see some of the most creative and ambitious among them exploring this new territory.
I, for one, am looking forward to more pocket-sized Pinot Noir.