You can take the plunge

  • Embrace change: Union Wine Company’s Underwood label produces wine in both bottles and aluminium cans that are the size of a half bottle of wine (Photograph courtesy Union Wine Company)

    Embrace change: Union Wine Company’s Underwood label produces wine in both bottles and aluminium cans that are the size of a half bottle of wine (Photograph courtesy Union Wine Company)

  • Purple delight: a member of the Union Wine Company aerates grapes as they ferment at the Oregon vineyard (Photograph courtesy Union Wine Company)

    Purple delight: a member of the Union Wine Company aerates grapes as they ferment at the Oregon vineyard (Photograph courtesy Union Wine Company)

I remember well the day we received a container of wine from New Zealand and discovered that a very popular Sauvignon Blanc was enclosed with a screw-cap.

Two popular Hamilton restaurants, that were featuring it by the glass, refused to buy it and said that they would “never allow” such an enclosure in their establishments.

In a panic, I contacted the winery and complained bitterly.

The family told me that they had a similar e-mail from their US importer, but by the time a reorder was placed, another e-mail asked them to be sure to send screw-caps as consumers soon accepted this new idea for quality wines.

I like to think of a customer ordering a bottle of wine in Paris in the 1600s and their displeasure in not seeing clay, leather or cloth blocking the bottle opening.

The sommelier produced a spiral device and said that he would remove the bark of a cork tree from the bottle with it.

He went on to explain that with the recent ability to produce bottles with consistent neck sizes it was now possible to cut same sized plugs of cork and use them to seal the wine. It caught on rather nicely.

Now, I would like to take you to Oregon and introduce you to someone who was the initial person there to think “outside the bottle”.

First let us consider that sales in the US of this new idea have jumped from $2,000,000 in 2012 to $69,000,000 in 2018.

The instigator of it all, Ryan Harms of the Union Wine Company, says that 55 per cent of all his wine is in the new format and he expects sales to double this year, even though many of the major players in the wine trade are jumping on the bandwagon.

Ryan’s idea is not just accepted in the US as an article in last month’s Decanter magazine, in England, refers to a lower carbon footprint, reduced weight, more efficient recycling and even faster chilling and safer to use around the pool.

Ryan Harms founded the Union Wine Company in 2001 and I will let him tell you his story.

“I’ve worked for some great Oregon wineries throughout my career. In so many cases, my friends wanted to support us, but simply couldn’t afford to.

“I decided that I wasn’t going to accept that wine made in Oregon had to be expensive. So, Union is about creating something that I can share with friends and family and make accessible, without sacrificing quality. We made it our mission at Union to pay close attention to the details, while leaving the fussy parts behind.

“By being efficient about everything, from how we set up the winery to how we make wine, we knew we could successfully create that marriage of craft and small-scale manufacturing.”

We do carry Underwood Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir in standard bottles as well as their King’s Ridge Pinot Noir, but as you probably have surmised, this is not a story about bottles, but instead his very same wines in aluminium cans that are the size of a half-bottle of wine.

Underwood 2018 Oregon Pinot Gris is the same delicious Underwood Pinot Gris as in the bottle, but in an easy-to-transport pop-top can! No, it doesn’t affect the taste; it’s a crisp, dry, fresh and bright style of Pinot Gris, with a touch of white nectar, lemon, apple and pear.

One site called The Reverse Wine Snob says “opens with an attractive aroma of tangerine, pear and some light floral notes. Tasting reveals more pear plus peach, lemon and grapefruit, along with a smooth mouthfeel.

The medium-length finish features lingering grapefruit notes that entice you to take another sip. While the wine may not offer a ton of complexity, the whole experience is just downright refreshing!”.

Underwood 2018 Rosé is a 100 per cent Pinot Noir and gives us raspberry, strawberry, pomegranate and watermelon in a very refreshing style that is just off dry.

If it is time for a celebration, then we can even offer Underwood 2018 “The Bubbles” Sparkling that garners a very respectable 87/100 from The Wine Enthusiast that comments, “from the Union Wine Company, this value bubbly is 62 per cent Pinot Noir and 38 per cent Chardonnay.

“It’s fresh, crisp and clean, with notes of apple, melon and citrus. It comes in full-size, crown-capped wine bottles and 375ml cans”.

Are you willing to take the plunge as customers did in Paris hundreds of years ago, or as folks here did about twenty years ago? All three wines, that are equivalent to a half-bottle of wine, are $11.90.

Just remember that the can has absolutely no effect on the taste of the contents and dare to be an environmentally responsible trendsetter.

This column is a paid-for advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd, written by Michael Robinson of Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. He can be contacted at or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East. 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George’s (York Street, 297-0409)

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Published Aug 23, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Aug 23, 2019 at 12:07 am)

You can take the plunge

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