The recent launch of Uncommon Wines, the latest project from Bishop Cider, shouldn’t be quite as surprising as it initially seems.
“It usually surprises people but Bishop Cider is technically a winery because we ferment fruit rather than grain,” explains Laura Malone, the co-owner of Bishop Cider Company. “As entrepreneurs and business owners, we are always looking for ways to evolve and grow.”
That the popular cider maker has branched out into wine is only part of the unique nature of the wine line, which features Call Me a Cab Cabernet, Chardonn-Hey Girl Chardonnay, It’s a Good Time to Grigio Pinot Grigio and Rosé S’il Vous Plait Rosé. These are “session wines” served in cans. In craft brewing, a session beer is defined as a beer with less than 5% alcohol by volume, meant to offer drinkers the option of drinking several in a single "session." Most wine clocks in at about 11% ABV. Uncommon Wines are 6.9% ABV.
Uncommon is a fitting title for the wines and certainly an appropriate descriptor for the direction Bishop is going by offering something other than its signature form of alcohol.
“Making wine was a natural move, especially since we love wine,” Malone says. “We had the experience and tools — plus, a love for taking something stagnant and making it new."
Similar to a session beer, Uncommon Wines will also have less calories and carbs than regular wine. And in an effort to keep pace with Bishop’s primary cider-drinking audience, a session-style wine makes it easier to enjoy in amounts similar to what they usually pour.
“We made these session wines so you get all of the enjoyment with less of the adverse effects,” Malone says. "We can finally drink the pint of wine we always wanted. Want to drink a whole bottle of wine and not have a massive headache and regrets? We got you.”
In the craft beer world, there’s long been heated discussion among those who complain that beers brewed specifically to be session versions of stronger beers are simply watered-down clones, and those who see session beers as fitting snugly under a larger, something-for-everyone umbrella. There doesn’t seem to be any similar debate in the wine world, since the session trend hasn’t seemed to bloom there just yet.
"The ladies who created the brand are avid wine lovers,” Malone says. “So when we set out to create a wine brand, staying true to the grape varietals was important to us. At the same time, this is not a brand for wine snobs. Bougie wine drinkers wouldn’t be happy that we added pineapple and passion fruit to our Pinot Grigio, but we love it that way.”
Drinkers can sip the wines in less conventional ways, too.
“We even pour it over ice,” Malone adds with a joking gasp. “Being true to yourself without fear of judgment is our band message.”
Another uncommon element of Bishop’s new venture is that it’s a woman-powered wine line. It doesn’t require hours of scholarly research to discover the brewing industry, in Texas or elsewhere, isn’t exactly overflowing with female-led outfits. Malone, Bryant and wine maker Paige Christensen represent a refreshingly progressive effort that’s rightfully unapologetic about who their nectar is made by and for. Even the decision to can the wine, as opposed to bottling it, came from a place designed to empower women, according to Malone.
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“Something really important to us (is) asking, 'What is this wine doing for women?’” she says. “When creating the brand, which you can see all over our cans and boxes, our goal was to create empowering experiences for those drinking it. Our tagline is ‘Don’t keep it bottled up, drink what you like,’ meaning a few things. First, let’s get rid of the stigma that wine has to be fancy and expensive for it to be good. And second, despite what people may perceive, drinking wine out of a can doesn’t change the taste or make it any less great than a bottle. Cans are so much more functional than a bottle. They’re portable, commitment-free, and at 12.7 ounces per can, the perfect serving size.”
In a number of ways, Uncommon Wines serves up a unique product that easily distinguishes itself on pretty much any retail shelf. A canned session wine made by a cider company is already funky enough to fill up a Mad Libs sheet, but top the story off with the women in charge and you’re getting far more than a new type of sipping experience.
“I do have an immense amount of pride creating a brand that is so obviously for women and by women,” Malone says. “Of course, there are several men assisting and advising along the way, but the girls here at Bishop are steering this ship, and it’s nice to have like-minded ladies stepping in, giving their input and being respected for it.”
Uncommon Wines is currently available at restaurants and retail locations across DFW.