Why A Cider Company Tried Its Hand At ‘Light Wine’

The people behind Vermont-based cider company Shacksbury have branched out and tried their hand at producing a low-alcohol canned wine called Easy Wine, a light bubbly Rosé with 5.8% ABV that is packaged in 12 oz cans.

The new product — called a “light wine” —  is available at a number of retailers as well as DTC through their website. The light, low sugar beverage is made using California grapes and its makers intend the consumer to enjoy it straight out of the can.

Vintner caught up with Luke Schmuecker, director of marketing for both Shacksbury and Easy Wine — which is being marketed under its own brand and promoted on a separate website — to ask some questions about the new product.

VINTNER:  What led the folks at Shacksbury to try their hand at light wine? What about this niche was attractive to them?
SCHMUECKER: Back in 2018 we released our first “rosé cider” which was our house blend cider, aged on cab and syrah skins, and that took us down a rabbit hole. That kicked off a new passion for working with wine and grape skins, and from there we went on to do collaborations with different wine makers around the country — valdigue skins from Broc Cellars and cab franc skins from Lo-Fi Wine and others. Our goal was always to produce a beverage that was light and refreshing like a cider or beer, while still having the character you would from a rosé wine because of the skin contact. It was a natural progression that led us to the question: Why don’t we make a wine that is meant to be consumed like a beer, cider or seltzer?

VINTNER: Who is the target Easy Wine consumer? How is the product marketed to them?
SCHMUECKER: Our target consumer is someone who wants a low-ABV beverage and cares about how it tastes. That can be a wine drinker who is looking for a seltzer alternative that they can pull out of a cooler on a warm afternoon in the park or by the pool. We aren’t trying to displace our friends’ amazing bottles of wine that you drink at dinner. It’s the same consumer, just a different occasion.
I think where the education portion of this new category comes in is telling people how to consume “light wine.” Obviously, by putting it in a single serving 12 oz can there is a level of convenience that is built in. It should be the can you pull out of the fridge when you don’t want to make that commitment to open up a bottle. Our brand is intentionally very casual because that is how we want people to think of this beverage; while we’re very much inspired by piquettes and spritzes, we intentionally steered clear of that wine world terminology because we want Easy Wine to be just that: easy. 

VINTNER: Please explain to me the process for creating what’s basically a “session” wine. How does the process differ from that of making a conventional wine? Is there more or less equipment involved, or different equipment entirely?
SCHMUECKER: Easy Wine is a bit like the lovechild of a spritz and a piquette. We’re fermenting grapes into wine, adding sparkling water, and then adding in additional skin contact for a more robust flavor. 

VINTNER: What were some challenges to creating this product, and how did the winemakers overcome those challenges?
SCHMUECKER: It’s not a new concept to add some sparkling water to wine to make it enjoyable to drink on a hot day, but what is unique about Easy Wine is that the blend of grapes we are choosing is built to be blended down to a lower ABV. We had to reverse engineer the blend in some ways — choosing grapes that have character that is strong enough to stand up to blending it down. It took some tinkering, but we’re really happy with the final blend, and excited to keep exploring for our forthcoming releases (Easy Wine Red and Easy Wine White). For our Rosé we use riesling for acidity and muscat for aromatics. It’s an unusual mix, but we’re reverse engineering a mix that works when blended down. Finally, we give the blend a soak on cab skins.

VINTNER: How does the company work to make its product stand out over other new offerings in this segment?
SCHMUECKER: The canned wine market is growing fast, and there are a lot of new options out there for consumers. Most of what we are seeing in the market is either full alcohol wine in a can or more of a low-ABV wine based cocktail in a can, like a traditional spritz cocktail. Easy Wine is really a wine that is made to be low alcohol wine.

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