Nomadica Is Carving A Natural Niche In The Canned Wine Category
By: Kate Dingwall
We’re entering the golden age of canned wine.
Up until recently, canned wine had the reputation of being overly saccharine, viscous juice—a category mentally maligned with boxed wine.
But a wave of new players in the canned wine world has burst the category open, with innovative (and delicious) new options. There are stellar Nouveau riffs out of Oregon (thanks, Underwood), sommelier-crafted single-serving spritzers (re: Ramona), and Vinny, a brand putting New York state’s finest bubbles in can format. Babe Wine produces breezy, chuggable rosés for the Instagram set while Sans Wine is vintage-dating canned wine.
One of the most notable brands of the new guard is Nomadica. Founded by a former Snapchat bigwig and a noted sommelier, the brand’s modus operandi is crafting a rainbow of sustainably-crafted canned wines that supports the California wine community.
You could say the brand checks a lot of boxes for the Millennial drinker: it’s female and LGBTQ+ led. Wines are low-intervention, vegan, and produced from sustainably-grown grapes from small farms on the West Coast. Cans are recyclable and wines have no residual sugar. Labels are designed in collaboration with a rotating set of visual artists.
But the wine is also just plain great. Not ‘good for a canned wine,’ but genuinely quaffable: the duo produces bright, effervescent bubblies, bone-dry rosés, and high-acid, low-tannin reds that offer none of the tinniness of most canned reds.
Brands like Nomadica, Underwood, Sans and Vinny are marking a big moment for the canned wine category.
Since 2012, sales of canned wines have jumped from $2 million to $183.6 million in the 52-week period ending July 11, 2020. Nielsen has noted that sales of canned wine grew 79.2% over 2019, while wine sales increased just 1.4% over the same period. The category is expected to be worth $155.1 billion by 2027, with a CAGR of 10.4% over that period.
The draw of the canned category is obvious. Similar to hard seltzer’s adjacent success, single-serving wine offers convenience and portion control—with an average serving size of 250mL, canned wines offer single-serving alternatives to 750mL bottles of wine.
Major wine industry players have launched iterations—E. & J. Gallo has Barefoot’s spritzer, Constellation Brands STZ -0.6% has Kim Crawford’s canned Sauvignon Blanc. But small brands like Underwood, Nomadica, Ramona, and Vinny are pushing innovation, translating top-quality wine into compact formats.
The idea for Nomadica first sparked when Emma Toshack started pouring nice bottles of wine into empty sparkling water cans to get around her building’s no-alcohol rules—she just wanted a glass of wine while she lay by the pool.
Her MacGyver’ed canned wine was convenient and delicious. So why didn’t something like this exist?
When Toshack approached co-founder Kristin Olszewski with the idea, “I will admit, as a fine dining sommelier, I was incredibly resistant at first. I had never had the experience I seek out in wine in a can. So Emma canned a tiny amount of Josh Klapper’s Pinot Noir and brought it back to me to taste. I admittedly let it sit in my cabinet for about a month but one night, when I didn’t feel like opening an entire bottle, I gave it a try.”
“A lightbulb went off and that’s when Nomadica was truly born; we then began our journey to create premium canned wine.”
Toshack formerly served as the growths program manager at Snapchat, while Olszewski cut her teeth as a sommelier at Saison, Husk, and Osteria Mozza. She is currently the wine director of Gigi’s in Hollywood.
Olszewski now serves as the brand’s wine director, sourcing wines from her favorite winemakers in the state rather than growing grapes themselves. “I like to compare us to negociants (winemakers who buy grapes from other farmers), only, instead of buying grapes, we buy already-finished wine.” This keeps overhead low—no need to manage a vineyard—while supporting local producers.
She focuses her selections on crowd-pleasing blends that appeal to a broad spectrum of drinkers. “After working in restaurants for years, I have a theory that there are certain flavor profiles that everyone enjoys. Whether you’re a sommelier or an occasional wine drinker, we source in that vein—bright wines with fresh fruit. Wines that sing in the can,” says Olszewski.
Currently, Nomadica offers a red blend of Sangiovese, Grenache, and Zinfandel; Rosé made from Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cinsault, and Grenache; and a sparkling Pinot Noir Rosé. There’s also a sparkling white with a Malvasia and a Chardonnay base, plus a limited-run, entirely-organic Chardonnay.
Canning wine while retaining the quality is no easy feat. Aluminum is volatile, and canned improperly, the alloy can easily impart a metallic taste to the liquid. Some winemakers now add a protective lining, while others, test out wines that will keep their flavor through the canning process—Olszewski opts for low-acid varietals with minimal sulphur.
The duo also sources thoughtfully, curating wines from local small producers. “Great wine is made in the vineyard, not the cellar,” says Olszewski. “Our first priority is working with people who have responsible farming methods and don’t use pesticides. Winemakers are first and foremost farmers and stewards of the earth—we consider ourselves lucky to be able to support such incredible humans.”
In that frame of mind, Nomadica recently released a limited-edition release of certified organic Chardonnay, intending to shift the entire line to entirely organic processes. “We’re excited to bring more wines like that into our collection,” Olszewski explains.
The environmental ethos stretches beyond the juice. “Cans themselves are so much more sustainable than glass. They use much less energy to recycle and because cans are so much lighter they reduce shipping emissions by up to 80%.”
Customers have been incredibly receptive to this approach. “Our customers are wine drinkers; they are used to drinking premium wine, they have developed palates and they routinely choose us. We have a huge percentage of repeat buyers – I don’t think there’s a higher compliment than that. We all know canned wine is great for hikes, the beach, the pool, etc, but our consumers also choose us for their nights at home when they don’t want to open an entire bottle, or when they want multiple varietals throughout the evening.”
Just like hard seltzer, the convenience of canned wine is drawing the masses. And thanks to a broad spectrum of wines and producers like Nomadica, canned wine is elevating itself beyond fad status.