As recently as a few years ago, the concept of wine in a can wasn’t exactly a luxurious one. No more! Canned wine has only increased in popularity in recent years, and as the demand has increased, so has the quality. Now, consumers can have delicious, high quality wines in a convenient canned package. No more need for corkscrews and cups, just open the can and go! Exceptional wine can be enjoyed anywhere you are, without the hassle. That’s what French wine importer David Milligan Selections is aiming for with their entry into the canned wine market, ON Y VA Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc. Perfect for those outdoor summer days, this crisp, bright white wine is sourced from a family estate in the Loire Valley, a region known specifically for their delicious white wines. We sat down with the husband and wife team behind this chic portable wine, Alex and Julie Milligan, to find out more.
So Alex, why Sauvignon Blanc for your first canned wine?
The next generation of wine lovers is responding extremely favorably to Loire Valley wines, and they’re breathing new life and energy into the category. I knew that if DMS Wine was doing wine in cans, we had to do it right. ON Y VA canned wine had to have a strong sense of place and authenticity and be sourced from a family-owned estate situated in a sophisticated wine region. We were creating the wine we wanted to enjoy on all of our outdoor adventures. So as a French wine importer of many years, I knew early that the first ON Y VA can would be Loire Valley—called the Garden of France, it’s an exceptional wine region we’ve been working with since the inception of our import company. Also, the canned-wine market was largely built on Rosé, and while we enjoy an elegant Rosé and do very well with our Domaine Houchart Côtes de Provence Rosé, we wanted to do something different with cans and knew Sauvignon Blanc is another fantastic summer sipper; ON Y VA is light, refreshing, dry and crisp—sublime, really. Ultimately, the stars aligned when we were able to find 100% Sauvignon Blanc and all the harvest reports were coming in glowing; 2018 has been called a historic Loire Valley vintage, and it’s been said the winemakers scarcely recall a better harvest. We wanted to launch with a bang, so we knew 2018 Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc was our wine.
Given your family’s wine business history, what do they think about your canned wine venture?
Ha! That’s a terrific question. My father, who founded our import company, has been in the wine business for more than 50 years and, well, he initially thought it was crazy; like most of the French producers we work with, he’s a wine traditionalist and purist, and the idea of sipping wine from a can was completely foreign to him. He’s also British and wore a suit every day when he attended Eton as a boy and has that polished gentleman sensibility.
But my generation and the next generation of wine lovers were looking for portable high-end wine and the convenience, ease and flexibility that comes with that, and they’ve grown up seeing premium products in cans, craft IPAs, San Pellegrino, Starbucks, Perrier, so it was more of a natural evolution for me. As president of DMS Wine, I saw ON Y VA French wine in cans as something we had to launch to stay relevant and meet consumer demand. When Eric Asimov at The New York Times is writing favorably about canned wines, you know the world of wine is changing.
Plus, outdoor enthusiasts like us, who are also wine enthusiasts, have been waiting for a portable, hassle-free, high-end wine. Wine lovers weren’t going to become beer lovers outdoors just because that was the only option; they were just schlepping heavy glass bottles and all the wine tools on hikes and boats, and that was just annoying. And while my father does still think I’m crazy, he’ll be there at the launch party.
What is your secret for doubling sales at DMS wine?
For a small family importer like us, it’s not about an enormous marketing budget or gimmicky labels; it’s about reaching further into each market to tell our story, and making time to appreciate all of those unofficial brand ambassadors we have out there, supporting our wines every day. As I gained experience, I also became more strategic about the way I travel to the 29 US states, plus DC and the Virgin Islands, that we work with, making sure to personally see each market the appropriate amount of times; some of our key markets I hit six times a year now.
The most important thing as a wine importer, and for a lot of executives, is building strong, long-lasting relationships built on dependability and trust. I deal with customers authentically, and we pride ourselves on offering top-level personalized service to our distributor, retail and restaurant partners. We support their efforts and triumphs on our social channels, because if they’re not successful, we’re not successful. And we always bring the quality; our company is built on dependable high-quality juice, and DMS Wine is the trusted name in estate wine. I’ve also found some fantastic people to bring onto the sales team; we have targeted brokers in certain key markets, and just this year, I expanded the full-time salesforce, hiring a national key accounts director in Texas and a sales consultant focused on New York City. Still, at the end of the day, no one is as passionate about your product as you, the president of the company, are and nothing replaces face-to-face interaction with customers. You need to listen to their challenges and understand their perspective and concerns so you can support them and help them overcome those challenges.
Julie, tell us how your work as a health and lifestyle writer has influenced your work as a copywriter?
Whatever you’re writing, the story is all important, and there are stories everywhere—they just need to be unearthed. I never thought I’d be writing copy on a can of wine or a wine bottle, but estate wines have dynamic stories of place and personality and rich histories. Reporting teaches you how to extract the details you need to create a picture. With ON Y VA, when we were conceptualizing, I kept gravitating to the design that reminded me of our own real-life stories. As a writer, I always draw strongly on memories; they say “write what you know” after all, and there’s a reason for that. Memories appear to me as blocks of images and scents and sensations and sounds and feelings all tied up together. We chose our can design because it conjured up real, magical moments we had together in Loire Valley: sipping wine on terraces, overlooking ripe, green vines, talking and laughing as the sun went down, hearing the tranquil hum of the vines. The story is in the details; those are what transport us. We wanted to share our magical moments and encourage wine lovers to find their own, whether that’s watching a sunset, strolling on the beach, hiking in lush forest or just relaxing on the deck. That’s our mission: to encourage wine lovers to play outside more, to unplug more and to find their moment with the ones they love.
What are some of your favorite food pairings for ON Y VA?
Fresh seafood pairs deliciously with ON Y VA! We love to grill fillets of flaky sea bass and shrimp with friends out in Bridgehampton in the summer, and ON Y VA pairs perfectly with those. We also love feasting on raw oysters from New England, and ON Y VA is a fantastic pairing with briny oysters. ON Y VA also pairs perfectly with sushi and that’s Julie’s favorite; both are light and fresh and perfect on a summer evening. Goats’ milk cheeses and fresh, leafy-green salads also make amazing pairings.
Will you be launching other varietals?
That’s the plan! Our umbrella brand is ON Y VA Vin de France, and we plan to launch our next gorgeous can in May 2020. We have some exciting designs to work with already, and we are actively tasting new wines from selected wine regions in France now; no rest for the weary! We want to make sure we are taking time to choose the highest quality wine for each can, from a trusted family estate, in a celebrated wine region. David Milligan Selections is the trusted name in estate wine and people look to us to bring the quality. Stay tuned on Instagram and Facebook @DrinkOnYVa or at DrinkOnYVa.com for news of our current and upcoming launches.
What does a 4-pack retail for?
ON Y VA Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc is canned wine expressly for wine lovers and retails for $32 a 4-pack of 250ml cans. Each can contains two 4.2-ounce glasses, so you’re getting more than a bottle of wine in a 4-pack.
Will the wine be available for purchase online?
We’ll be available online through a host of online retailers but will not sell through our own website. We’re in a unique position because we’re one of the few imported wines in a can, and as such, the rules for us differ. US laws around alcohol are unique and complicated, and while US producers sell directly through their own website, we cannot.
Will you be selling in North Carolina?
Absolutely! With all of its beautiful coastal towns and hip cities, North Carolina is a natural fit for wine in a can and one of our prime markets in our initial launch in summer 2019. We’ll be posting new retailers on our website. We’ll keep you informed online where in North Carolina you can find On Y Va. This is a limited run of ON Y VA Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc, so you’ll want to get it as soon as it’s available. We’ll debut in NYC, but NC soon after, so stay tuned online to know when we hit retail shelves near you!
What is your go-to karaoke song?
Hmm, hard to choose just one! But we like belting out a little “Walkin’ on Sunshine” it’s a high-energy classic that always brings the fun—just like ON Y VA Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc this summer! We can’t wait for you to try it and see for yourself. If you have questions or comments, drop us a line at Info@Dmswine.com.
ON Y VA Photographer @JesseWinter and Stylist Nicole Surawski