The Wine Industry Advisor met up with Ben Parsons, owner and winemaker of The Infinite Monkey Theorem winery on the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium trade show floor and talked about wine packaging and consumer trends as well as his new winery in Austin Texas.
Parsons and The Infinite Monkey Theorem has been a pioneer for alternative wine packaging, selling his wines in cans and on tap. Last year he successfully lobbied for a change in Colorado law that would allow winemakers to copack and keg, bottle or can bulk wine from out of state manufacturers in Colorado.
Tell us about your new Austin winery
We opened in November, November the 13th. We crushed 54 tons last year all Texas fruit from Lubbock. we have Trebbiano, Vermentino, Chenin Blanc; on the reds Merlot, Cab Franc, Tempranillo.
Austin’s market is really similar to Denver in many ways. Austin is the fastest growing metropolitan city in the United States, number two is Denver. So it’s getting a lot of young people, highly educated, median age 31 with high disposable incomes. It’s a city that isn’t really an established wine region. Just like Denver, no one thinks of Denver when they think of wine; no one thinks wine when they think Texas.
So it really fits our brand, our culture, our mentality. We’re an urban winery, we kind of mirrored that craft brewery image with our tasting room, or tap room. No stuffy kind of pretense bullshit, just trying to have fun with it, so Austin’s really a good demographic for us.
Do you consider the rise of craft beer a challenge to wine?
From my brand’s perspective I’m going after that craft beer drinker as well. I’m going after that younger demographic that’s just kind of out to have fun and not think too hard about the vineyard and all the pretense and bullshit. Just drink it, do you like it? enjoy it?
I haven’t seen a downsizing of sales as a result of the craft beer industry, and I have 20 craft breweries within half a mile of my winery. As Colorado has 230+ breweries and The Great American Beer Festival is in Denver every year; it’s a real hub of beer snobs. I haven’t seen any problems with it.
About 80% of the clientele that come into our tap room are female, and those ladies aren’t always after beer. So I haven’t seen it, but I think there’s a lot of crossover between the two. I mean obviously I’m canning, I’m kegging, very beer centric activities, and so we don’t have a tasting room; we have all our wines on tap, it’s like come in, sit down, hang out, more like that; more like a tap room than a winery tasting. Also we have a cider option which is hopped with some citra hops, for the guys coming in who want a beer but try a cider because it’s got hops in it.
Tell us about your canned wines
The wine in the cans is all fruit from California, but the canning only happens at our Denver operation, we’re at the point where our canning line can’t keep up with the demand; that’s why we’re here (in California) really. I went down to Varni Brothers to check out their co-packing facility in Modesto. So the next batch will be canned in California.
Whole Foods just put out a report saying that one of the hottest food trends of 2016 is wine in a can. It’s already on Frontier Airlines, Whole Foods, and Target has our cider in a can. Alternative packaging and single serve is a big trend, I don’t see it slowing down.
Ball Canning is upstairs apparently, so I’m going to go see them – they’re from Colorado too. They are the biggest can supplier in the world. They make 80 million cans a day in the US alone. So if they’ve got a booth here they must think it’s worthwhile, and that more winemakers are going to start putting wine in a can.
by Kim Badenfort