Brian Lesperance was in Colorado when he noticed several outstanding wines in an odd container: a can.
Lesperance, vice president at Fenn Valley Winery in Fennville, has long prided his winery for being ahead of the curve of wine industry trends (see: sterile filtration and bag-in-box), but this packaging trend had eluded the Southwest Michigan company thus far.
This year, as canned wines stormed the nation’s beverage markets, it seemed Michigan companies would still be lagging behind. That was until June, when Fenn Valley rolled out its canned offerings: Vino Blanco and Vino Rose.
Fenn Valley worked on the canned wine for a few years, first bringing in a mobile canning company for its hard ciders and eventually buying a MicroCanner canning line from Grand Rapids, which was able to also fill the wine-specific 375mL cans.
“Craft beer has been building on cans for some time, but cans for wine are a little harder to get a hold of,” Lesperance said. “People want wine, they’re better for pools, beaches, hiking, all sorts of outdoor activities.”
Each can holds a half a bottle, leading to Lesperance’s saying of “the second half of the bottle is still in the cooler.”
The two wines hitting the market first are the Vino Blanco, a Michigan take on the Portuguese Vino Verde, an effervescent, lower alcohol white wine, and Vino Rose, Fenn Valley’s example of the trendy dry pink wine blend.
Both wines are light and super refreshing for hot summer days.
Wines from Fenn Valley are among those from Michigan wineries that prove the state can compete in the industry and for consumer taste buds. Doug and Bill Welsch, Lesperance’s father- and grandfather-in-law started Fenn Valley in 1973.
This year, as customers make the well-worn hour drive to Fennville, Lesperance said they’ve been making clear the top wines to try and take home.
“We’re starting to get into the 2017 vintage and it’s really good,” he said. “Some of the best white wine we’ve ever produced, the unoaked chardonnay is fantastic. The Riesling, that’s the juggernaut in Michigan and last fall’s is no expectation. The reds are coming on strong. We grow really good, red Bordeaux styles, Cabernets and red blends that are world class in our relatively cool climate.”
As for wine in cans, Lesperance won’t place any restrictions on the future.
“The sky is the limit,” he said.
*Photos courtesy of Fenn Valley Winery