We once thought that canned wines would be a fad enjoyed only by a handful of people more focused on convenience than quality. Generally, that still may be true, but several quality producers – Sterling, Coppola, Bonterra, Ste. Michelle Estates – have raised the bar ever so slightly.
Canned wines represent only one percent of the wine market, but sales are growing. Wine Spectator reports can sales are up nearly 70 percent in the United States. Are people shifting? Not really. The traditional wine package added screw tops decades ago. Then there were boxes, kegs, and now cans. It’s all about marketing innovation.
Bottles always have been challenges for people on boats and picnics because they are unwieldy and subject to breakage. Plus, bottles don’t always fit into coolers and you need cups or glasses. You also are stuck with, say, a pinot noir or a chardonnay. With cans, you can bring a variety, chill them in a cooler, and eliminate the cups. And they are great if you can’t finish a bottle. Now that there is some quality wine behind the names, cans present a reasonable option if you’re looking for a basic wine to drink with sandwiches, pasta, or other picnic fare.
But lest you think drinking wine from a can is a phenomenal wine experience, think again. We tried nearly 20 canned wines and it was hard to ignore the taste of aluminum. Added to the off-flavors is that your mind wants to drink canned wine like you drink canned soda or canned beer – with gulps, not sips. The solution to this head game is to pour the wine in a glass or cup. But that defeats the convenience of a can, doesn’t it?
If you can will yourself to sip from a can, look out. A 375 milliliter can is a half of a bottle of wine at 12.5 percent alcohol by volume; beer is about 5 percent ABV. You’re going to feel the effects of alcohol pretty quickly if you drink a can of wine like you drink a can of beer.
Perhaps for that reason, many producers have gone to a smaller can. There is a 187 milliliter can that is about a fourth of a bottle of wine and a 250 milliliter can that is about a third of a bottle.
For us, the can experience makes wine just another alcoholic beverage. We’d rather take a bottle of Provence rosé to a picnic and live with its inconvenience. The sound of a cork beats the sound of pulling back a flip tab.
Having said all of this, we were impressed with several canned wines when we drank them from a glass. Here are a few recommendations:
The Family Coppola Sofia Mini Blanc de Blancs ($5/187ml). Coppola makes good wine at all levels and this sparkling wine made from pinot blanc, riesling and muscat grapes is an enjoyable way to celebrate life alone without having to open an entire bottle.
The Family Coppola Sofia Rosé ($20/four-pack/187ml). Syrah, grenache and pinot noir are blended in this crisp, strawberry-like rosé.
Underwood Pinot Noir ($28/four-pack, 375ml). From the Umpqua Valley region of Oregon, this light-bodied pinot noir has strawberry and cherry flavors with a touch of herbs.
Prophecy Sauvignon Blanc ($10/2-pack, 250 ml). This producer wins first place for the best-looking can. And what’s inside is good too. We liked this New Zealand sauvignon blanc for its varietal grapefruit and lychee flavors. We also liked the pinot noir from this producer.
Oregon White Pinot Gris ($7/375 ml). Peach and mango flavors.
Dark Horse Pinot Noir ($50/12-pack/375ml). Simple black cherry flavors with a touch of herbs.
Sterling Chardonnay ($7.50/375ml). Nice and clean apple flavors in a beautifully shaped bottle.
Legacy Chardonnay 2015 ($75). Jess Jackson established this label in 1990 to take wine quality to a new level. Using top-shelf grapes grown 1,600 feet up the Alexander Mountain Estate, Legacy is complex and rich in style. Very aromatic with a silky texture and tropical fruit notes.
Grounded Wine Co. Steady State Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($65). A product of Josh Phelps and Steph Slaughter, this new blend uses all of the Bordeaux grape varieties to make a colossal, well-structured wine with a floral and mature nose and cherry flavors with hints of currants and herbs.
Renzo Masi Erta e China Rosso di Toscana 2017 ($16). The name meaning ascent and descent in Italian symbolizes the pattern of the vines that resemble the spokes of a wheel. An even blend of sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon, this uncomplicated super Tuscan wine has forward black cherry and herbal notes. A delicious wine to enjoy with grilled foods, pasta and pizza.
Peachy Canyon Paso Robles Petite Sirah 2016 ($36). A soaring star in the petite sirah world, this inky and hedonistic wine abounds in fruit flavors of plums and blackberries with a delicate hint of anise.
Légende St. Emilion 2016 ($45). A product of Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite), this knock off is worth the money. Merlot accounts for 85 percent of the wine with cabernet franc making up the difference. Cherry and blueberry flavors with soft tannins makes it a simple, quaffable wine. The 2015 Légende Paulliac ($55) is dominated by cabernet sauvigon with the balance made up of merlot. Both are good wines that don’t require a lot of aging.