Filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, a California vintner by avocation, is making Americans an offer he hopes they won't refuse: He's asking...
WASHINGTON — Filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, a California vintner by avocation, is making Americans an offer he hopes they won’t refuse: He’s asking them to drink his champagne out of cans.
The bubbly — named Sofia, after Coppola’s daughter — comes in individual servings of about 6 ounces. It’s offered in a raspberry-colored, plastic-lined can with a straw attached to the side, just like a juice box. It retails for $5 a can or $20 for a four-pack, which comes packaged in a hexagonal foil carton, also raspberry.
If taste is the point, Sofia may be a decent bargain. Craig Baker, a Washington, D.C., buyer of imported wines and someone who makes his living by his palate, rated canned Sofia second against four comparably priced bottled sparkling wines in a blind tasting organized this week by Knight Ridder Newspapers.
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But taste is almost beside the point, according to bar managers, young women who choose Sofia and even Erle Martin, president of Niebaum-Coppola Winery, the filmmaker’s wine business.
“It’s a very cool presentation of a decent wine,” said Maria Elena Gutierrez, 28, sipping Sofia at Mie N Yu, a swanky Georgetown club full of handsome young people.
For them, it’s not just the wine that’s being presented, said Saeed Bennani, Mie N Yu’s beverage manager.
“You’re drinking champagne out of a can with a straw. It’s different. So you’re different,” Bennani said. “What’s in the can almost doesn’t matter.”
According to Martin, Coppola’s initial idea was to offer individual servings of conventionally bottled Sofia, which sells for about $20. Single servings of champagne and other sparkling wines are big sellers in Europe, especially among trendy young Riviera vacationers.
Coppola rejected on aesthetic grounds the scaled-down glass or plastic bottles in which European vintners sell their products, Martin said. But he was drawn to cans by their untapped advantages: “They’re lighter. They’re less expensive. They cool faster and they’re easier to dispose of,” Martin said.
Moreover, cans are welcome in several potentially lucrative settings where bottles are not, he added: “At poolside, at sporting events and at campsites.”
In addition, market research showed that many young women who like sparkling wine and could afford it weren’t buying it. They didn’t want to drink a whole bottle and didn’t trust stoppers, they said. They weren’t comfortable popping corks or they lacked the proper stemware.
Enter canned Sofia, aka the Sofia Mini.
Although drinkers call it champagne, technically it’s not: Only sparkling wines produced in the French province of Champagne can call themselves that.
It also calls itself Blanc de Blancs, but that label traditionally denotes a sparkling wine made entirely of Chardonnay grapes, while Sofia is a blend of pinot blanc, sauvignon blanc and muscat canelli.
While the Sofia Mini enjoys the cachet of Coppola’s distinguished Rutherford, Calif., winery, it’s made and canned by Francis Coppola Presents, Coppola’s Italian-style organic-food company. The operation is based in Lawrenceburg, Ind., which is not exactly Napa Valley.
Finally, champagne traditionalists may be dismayed by the sound that Sofia makes when it’s opened, which is as calm as a can of peanuts.
“People love the pop when they open a bottle of bubbly,” said Sue Furdek, spokeswoman for competitor Domaine Chandon. “It tells them the fun is about to begin.”
To prevent the can from exploding, the wine is canned with a small amount of air inside, which means it also ages nearly four times faster than wine in a bottle. Instead of a vintage year, the bottom of the can carries an expiration date.
Canned Sofia is sold nationwide, principally at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s stores. It’s also available in many wine shops.