A Conversation with Archer Roose’s Marian LeitnerMost wines are meant to be drank young. Bottles are meant for aging but aren’t really so great at keeping young wines fresh and fruity. Maybe you know all this, maybe you don’t.
Now enter Archer Roose, purveyors of chic slim-can, adventure-ready wines from around the world. When Archer Roose co-founder Marian Leitner first met her future-husband-business-partner Dave he’d already been running his own winery, was importing wines from around the world, including from the former Soviet republic of Georgia, which had kicked him out the country after a dispute with an oligarch. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Marian’s love of wine didn’t at first come exclusively from an appreciation of acid, tannins and fruit, though surely there was that. Wine always played in a part in the writers’ salons organized around her literary magazine Explosion-Proof: “What really hit home for me about this was wine as a conduit. Not only does it tell the story of a place and a winemaker but it also becomes a way for other people to connect and all their stories,” she says. “That’s where I truly fell in love with wine. I just saw it as another way of storytelling. But it had this ability to connect people even beyond the actual production of the product.”
Now jump forward to her and Dave looking at the wine market and sensing something was wrong. Starting with the bottle. “As I went down this path I learned that the idea that all wine had to end up in a bottle was really a modern construct,” she says. “Up until the 1960s and ’70s, most wine that was produced was not put into a bottle. It wasn’t because most wine that was produced wasn’t meant to be bottle aged.” An act of a confused Congress was largely responsible for the standardization of the 750ml bottle in the U.S.
“What we wanted to do was figure out a way to strip out all this nonsense and this artificial construct so we could just connect people to a quality product, but where they were really just paying for the wine and not for all this other stuff,” says Marian. Heavy bottles take an environmental toll, and is not even the best container for most of the wine it transports. “We’re bringing quality young wine, that is meant to be drank fresh, and in a format that best protects its integrity.”
That explains the flashy cans. What’s in the name? A conflagration of the names of Newland Archer, a fictional creation of Edith Wharton, and Teddy Roosevelt, the former Rough Rider and president who carried on a lifelong correspondence with Warton. Marian is neither fictional nor a famous literary figure’s penpal, but she very much is the creator of the character Archer Roose in addition to the co-founder of the namesake wine brand.
What is life if not slightly ridiculous?
We chatted with Marian about some of the inspiration for her creations and shotgunning wine.
Who is Archer Roose?
Archer Roose is named for a woman born at the end of the 19th century in New York City. She rejected the social mores of her time to travel the world. Renowned for her absurd adventures and the friends she made along the way, her spirit lives on in our wine company dedicated to the boundary pushers and feather rufflers—and to the community of likeminded people you meet along the way. She was a favorite traveling companion of Teddy Roosevelt.
Favorite Teddy Roosevelt fact:
He was childhood friends with Edith Wharton, the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize. They were penpals throughout their lives and he asked her to burn their correspondence upon his death.
Have you ever ridden a moose?
I have ridden many proverbial mooses—what is life if not slightly ridiculous?
Archer Roose celebrates “splendory without snobbery.” Define the word “splendory” please.
“Splendory” means “craftsmanship,” one of the cornerstone values of Archer Roose. It speaks to our relationship with our grape growers, who all use low intervention farming methods, and our winemakers to bring you a dangerously delicious can of wine.
What inspired the can colors (beyond the similarity to designate the wine inside, but we mean the electric shades) and bold graphic designs?
The Craft Beer industry has been very adept at building consumer brands. Whereas wine is so often ordered by varietal rather than brand, since there are very few brands that consumers can actually name, consumers order beer by the brand. With Archer Roose, we set out to build a consumer brand that was synonymous with quality. Because of this, we looked to craft beer brands for inspiration. Instead of the staid colors that wineries gravitate towards to convey tradition and excellence, we wanted bold colors that were fun and approachable. Our logo was meant to be quirky and distinctive that could build a visual connection with our consumers so that they always recognized our packaging.
We looked to craft beer brands for inspiration
How has the wine world changed since you started Archer Roose in 2015?
When we first launched, the only sustainably packaged brands were Black Box and Bota Box. Canned wine barely existed in the market, and there was a distinct lack of quality in the space. Now there’s a much wider acceptance of sustainable formats and a general acknowledgment that it’s actually the future of the industry. While there are still canned wine brands that are bulk wine, the segment has attracted more winemakers willing to experiment and launch interesting things in the space.
This is really exciting to us because for us the format is not about novelty—it’s about bringing interesting and quality options to consumers, in personalized sizes, in packaging that’s better for the environment. (Cans are 80% less landfill and 60% less carbon footprint than traditional bottles.) We are releasing a semi-sparkling, natural, skin contact wine in a can this spring. Such an offering would be unimaginable four years ago.
Of the regions your wine comes from, which is your favorite to visit?
Nothing beats Provence in the Spring and Fall, but I love visiting Mendoza, Argentina. The landscape is dramatic and breathtaking and Argentina is a wonderful amalgamation of cultures.
Sharing stories over wine is as ancient as civilization itself.
What did you learn publishing a literary magazine that you never thought would be applicable to running a wine brand, but is?
Stories are incredibly important to humans. Sharing stories over wine is as ancient as civilization itself. Understanding this connection, and that it is driven by an innate need in our nature to feel less alone and that we are part of a community, was something I learned first in my Explosion-Proof days and is a cornerstone belief of Archer Roose.
Ok, you’re shipwrecked on a desert island after your schooner delivering Archer Roose to Tahiti is wrecked by an angry Chardonnay-loving white whale trying to get to the cargo. A trunk full of cans of only one type of Archer Roose wine washes up on shore. Which one are you hoping is inside?
Given how involved I am in the development of each style of wine, that’s like asking me to pick my favorite child…But I think it would be our Rosé. There’s nothing better than sipping a Provencal Rosé on a beach!
Should we drink Archer Roose from the can or pour it into a glass? Follow up: can we shotgun it?
Archer Roose is about inspiring connection with others whenever and where you are. While it tastes delicious out of a can, my favorite is pouring it into a glass. Our wines stand up to any $15–20 bottle, and the glass allows you to take in all aspects of the wine.
And, technically, yes, but once you’ve tasted our wines you won’t consider shotgunning them.
What’s one thing people should know about canned wine?
People always ask me if you can taste the tin. The way to think about canned wine is similar to how you think about beer. There’s a lining on the inside of every can that prevents the aluminum from leaking into the liquid. And actually, similar to beer, cans are great for wines that you’re not planning to age as it prevents oxygenation and protects the wine from being exposed to light.
Top three activities to pair with Archer Roose wines…
Archer Roose is best paired with aprés ski, book clubs and lazy summer days with friends.