February 26, 2020 / 9:02 AM / a month ago

Old wine in new cans? South African startup sniffs new export opportunity

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - A South African startup is hoping to cash in on a growing global taste for canned wines as a lighter, more convenient alternative to bottles.

Cans of Merlot and Chenin Blanc made by Uncanny Wines are displayed in a wine bar in Paarl near Cape Town, South Africa February 25, 2020. Picture taken February 25, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Canned wines are already on sale in the United States, parts of Europe and elsewhere, but they are a novelty in South Africa, which is one of the world’s top 10 wine producers.

The startup, Uncanny Wines, based outside South Africa’s tourist hub Cape Town, says it is targeting domestic drinkers first but has its eye on the export market. The global wine industry is estimated to be worth nearly $400 billion.

The company’s cans of premium red and white wines are the first to be certified by South Africa’s Wine and Spirit Board.

“The initial response has been overwhelming, it’s going really well, and in the next few weeks we will be available countrywide in Pick n’ Pay stores,” said co-owner Arnold Vlok, referring to a major South African retailer.

“We are very close to exporting to the U.S., where this market is well-established, and I think the European market is especially responsive to the benefits which we add to the product, which is no sulphur-added and vegan-friendly,” said Vlok, speaking in a cellar where the company’s wines ferment.

Uncanny sells its 250 ml aluminum can for around 40 rand ($2.67) each, using popular Chenin Blanc and Merlot grape varieties. It expects to launch a Pinotage Rosé soon.

At the Wijn boutique wine bar in Paarl, which has started stocking the canned wine, customers seemed pleasantly surprised.

“Considering it’s from a can, I had my suspicions, but I have to say it’s one of the nicer Merlots I’ve tasted,” said Brandon Schlemmert, 21, after trying the product for the first time.

“It is very convenient… You can put it in a cooler if you prefer that, you can take it anywhere basically,” he said.

Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Alexander Winning and Gareth Jones

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