BENTON — People who buy their wine in a can probably don’t care if it comes in a traditional 12-ounce container or a slightly larger one.
Local wine producers care — a lot.
During a stop Wednesday at Fox Run Vineyards, Sen. Chuck Schumer backed an effort to change current wine canning regulations. He was joined by local officials, Fox Run owner Scott Osborn, Erica Paolicelli (co-owner of Three Brothers Winery & Estates) and Jim Trezise, president of WineAmerica and the National Association of American Wineries.
Schumer discussed current regulations by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). While the agency allows beer to be sold in cans of any size, it only permits wine and hard cider above 6.9 percent alcohol by volume to be sold in less-popular can formats such as 12.7 ounces.
Schumer said wine is also being sold in popular 8.4-ounce cans, but only in packs of three or four. He said allowing individual sales of that can size, such as at concerts, will lead to wine industry growth.
“Even though it has a $4.8 billion impact on New York, TTB is leaving New York’s wine industry hanging on the vine, with outdated rules and restrictions stopping it from reaching its potential,” Schumer said. “As canned wine continues to become more popular, there’s just no good reason why wine producers — like Fox Run Vineyards — shouldn’t be able to capitalize and sell their products in the most popular-sized cans, especially when studies have shown that lifting these unnecessary restrictions would lead to even further economic growth.”
Schumer also called on the TTB to change its “burdensome and Byzantine” labeling process that he said is bogging down Finger Lakes and Rochester-area wine producers, limiting potential revenue.
Fox Run and Three Brothers are two local wineries that recently began canning wine, considered one of the hottest new trends in the longtime industry. However, 12.7-ounce cans are harder to come by than the 12-ounce can because fewer manufacturers make them.
For instance, Schumer said Three Brothers had to wait about six months to get a shipment of cans to be filled with wine. The larger cans are also more expensive and require wine producers to buy in bulk, which can be cost prohibitive for smaller wineries.
“We need that time to be in weeks, not months or years,” he said.
Osborn and Paolicelli said lifting the TTB regulations would be good for all wineries that want to can their product. Schumer added that canned wine is also becoming popular with beach-goers who don’t want to be taking bottles of wine to the beach.
“This will open avenues for us and the industry,” Osborn said of canning wine. “It’s very exciting.”
“It will give consumers more choice,” Paolicelli added.
Osborn and Trezise noted that Schumer has been to Fox Run before to back the local and state wine industry.
“Senator Schumer has for decades been a strong supporter of the New York wine industry, and this is just the latest example,” Trezise said. “Wine offered in cans is one of the hottest trends in our industry, and the flexibility of packaging will help our producers sell more wine and employ more people.”
Schumer said the TTB is now reviewing its regulations.