Let’s say you’re headed to a tailgating party before the big game and you want to pack some wine to go with the brats and wings. You pile a couple of bottles of cheap pinot grigio and zinfandel in a cooler that is already too heavy for one person to lug into the parking lot.
Or, let’s just say that you wise up and pack a couple of cans of wine. Now, isn't that easier? But you hesitate: am I going to be embarrass to offer someone a can of chardonnay?
No, especially if you’re a millennial. Don’t look now, but wine bottles are sharing the shelves with cans and boxes. U.S. sales of wine from the can doubled in one year and has gone from $2 million in sales in 2012 to $14 million in 2016.
Maybe the experience of pouring wine from a can hasn't quite reached the dinner table or the restaurant, but it has become a convenient alternative to the 750ml bottle at tailgates, boating raft-ups, beaches, picnics, festivals, camping, and alongside pools and decks.
The advantages are numerous:
Like beer, cans are easy to toss into a cooler, and they are lighter
It forces portion control. A can is about 2 glasses, and maybe that’s all you want. There is no urgency to finish a bottle or even re-cork it.
It can be taken into stadiums or pools where glass is prohibited.
Not being exposed to light, cans can last for up to a year without fear of oxidation.
But there are disadvantages too:
Cans can be more expensive by the ounce. They need to be lined with polymer to prevent acidic wines from destroying the aluminum from within.
Top producers aren’t using cans. Francis Ford Coppola puts his Sophia wines in cans and they are very good. But you haven’t yet seen other top producers break with tradition and risk their images.
Drinking wine from a can through a straw can be intoxicating. Beer is only 4 percent alcohol and wine is around 13 percent. Drinking wine just as fast as a soda will get you into trouble.
Canned wines are a good fit for the right occasions, but they can be a bit sweet and ripe. Experiment before you offer them to a crowd.
Here are some we tasted:
Pam’s Unoaked Chardonnay ($4 for one 187ml can). Made by Pam Rubin of the Rubin Family of Wines in Sonoma County, the unoaked chardonnay is very pleasant with good acidity and varietal apple flavors. There is also a Ron’s Red from this collection that appears to be a varied blend of red grapes.
Tangent Rosé 2016 ($48 for six 375ml cans). If there is ever a perfect wine for a can, it’s rosé. Meant to be an unassuming aperitif, rosé can be easily chilled and sipped. Tangent is from the Edna Valley and is a blend of albarino, viognier, pinot noir, syrah, and grenache.
Great Oregon Wine Country Pinot Noir ($13 for four 6.3-oz. cans). These are smaller cans than most others, but maybe that’s good. Light and fruity, it’s a good wine to chill. This company also cans a decent pinot grigio.
Underwood Rosé ($28 for four 375ml cans) The Union Wine Co. has been putting wine in a can for several years and has become easy to find. It’s pinot noir is a hit, but we liked this easy-drinking rosé.
Alloy Wine Works Pinot Noir ($18 for three 375ml cans). Ripe cherry flavors and easy to quaff chilled.
Wineries often come and go, but there are many who have been with us for generations. One such winery we are happy to see still around is Beaulieu Vineyard.
We were introduced to this Napa Valley icon when we first started to write our column. Back in the 1980s, we were buying its classic Rutherford cabernet sauvignon for about $14 and then swooned over its Georges de Latour reserve cabernet sauvignon and its silky pinot noirs influenced by winemaker and consultant Andre Tchelistcheff.
BV, as it is more commonly known, has gone through several ownership changes since we first started reviewing these wines. Since 2016, it has been owned by Treasury Wine Estates.
We revisited two of its signature wines and were pleased to see the quality of the wine match the quality of its vineyard grape source.
All our fond memories of the Beaulieu Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon burst from the glass with the aromatic 2014. You won't find a better, full-bodied Napa Valley cabernet for $33. Like we remember, this cabernet sauvignon has layers of fruit due in part to the three appellations that supply the grapes: BV Rutherford, Calistoga and St. Helena. The nose is laced with violets, mocha, plum and blackberry while the palate adds some cherry and allspice notes.
Although considerably more expensive at $65, the 2013 BV Reserve Tapestry is a dynamite blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, petit verdot, malbec, and cabernet franc. Grapes from reserve lots are vinified separately and aged in small oak barrels for 21 months. Fruit forward in style and surprisingly soft in texture, it offers generous plum, cherry and cassis flavors with hints of cedar and tobacco.
Trizanne Signature Wines Elim Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($19). From the southern-most tip of Africa, this wine has fresh acidity, citrus, and fig flavors with a dash of minerality.
St. Supery Rutherford Estate Ranch Merlot 2013 ($50). We loved the texture of this smooth yet complex merlot from the Napa Valley. Loads of ripe plum and blackberry flavors with a big dose of vanilla and mocha. Long finish makes it a merlot to savor.
Cigar Box Pinot Noir 2015 ($12). There is a lot of sweet red berry fruit in this luscious quaff from the Central Vallley. Good value in the pinot noir category.