Barokes Wines was founded by Steve Barics and Greg Stokes, reputedly after narrowly avoiding an experience involving a shattered wine glass and a spa. They saw wine in a can as a solution to all those situations where glasses and bottles were either forbidden or ill-advised. Buying bulk wines from other vintners in south-eastern Australia, they began packaging wine in aluminium cans. In 2002 they patented the Vinsafe process, using cans with a plastic lining that could preserve the wine for up to a year.
Here in Australia, we’ve made some significant innovations in wine packaging. Think the wine cask, invented back in 1965, or the screw top (known in the trade as a Stelvin) which was developed in France in response to a request by Yalumba’s Peter Wall. And it seems we were also the first to put wine in cans.
It took some years to get the process right. Wine’s high acidity and alcohol levels meant a thick plastic lining was required to prevent a reaction with the aluminium can. Stokes and Barics patented their process but saw it being replicated in Japan. They subsequently sold a majority share of their business to the Japanese Daiwa Can Company. Wine in a can has proved very popular in Japan, where the cans are dispensed from vending machines. Most of Barokes wines are exported.
The early wines were described by reviewers as “for novice palates, sweetish and a bit bubbly”. They were clearly aimed at the younger market and a number of surveys have found that under-35s displayed the most interest. In the USA, where the first canned wines appeared in 2003, it’s the fastest-growing category. Affordability, portability and lack of pretension are the big selling points.
Australians have been slower to accept the cans, but they are making inroads. The Vinsafe technology has been licensed to other makers including mainstream brands like Jacob’s Creek and the range of wines has expanded – although Moscato still seems to feature strongly. Barokes have carried off a number of awards, although many are in the “Best wine in a can” category where one might suppose the number of competitors is limited. But their Bubbly Cabernet Shiraz did win the prestigious Best Wine with Peking Duck award at the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Competition in 2014.
Sadly, the relationship between Barokes and Daiwa deteriorated when Daiwa began supplying the technology to other wine-makers. After lengthy and expensive litigation, the case Barokes brought against Daiwa failed in August 2018 in a judgement that would see the company being wound up.