Alternative packaging is always interesting. The large bag-in-box format (aka Cardbourdeaux) has been a round for a while and Tetra-Pak has been slowly gaining ground for the environmentally aware wineries. Stainless steel is the high-brow alternative to glass but probably isn’t that much better in the long run, though I have no science to prove that. (Though really, who needs science these days anyway when opinions and memes carry so much more weight.) So when I started to see a lot more wine in cans appearing in the stores this summer, I thought that this deserves a little more attention.
These little cans might just be the most interesting new thing to hit the BC wine market in a while. For all of us who have started hiking, canoeing, or generally ‘getting out there’ more often since the start of the pandemic, carrying around a little sip of vinous loveliness without the weight of a bottle is perfect. Red, white, or sparkling, these little vessels can be brought just about anywhere.
Here are my thoughts on each of the ones that I tried recently:
“Lake Okanagan Breeze” Pinot Blanc (oopsie, I mean “Lake Breeze” Pinot Blanc…)
Marketing blunders aside (though it looks like they fixed the confusion over their name), this is a wine I am quite familiar with. I tried looking for differences but the reality is that this tastes like the same stuff in the bottle. The only difference was that there was a noticeable buildup of bubbles on the sides of the glass. Not sure if it was the glass itself or if the wine had more dissolved CO2 it than normal. It wasn’t off-putting – just noticeable. Otherwise, it was refreshing because after finishing it, I was in fact refreshed, which is exactly what happens when I enjoy the bottled version.
Seaside Pearl Daffodils Sparkling Wine
From the familiar to the first-time, I do not recall tasting anything from this winery thus far. (I’m pretty good at recalling that kind of thing generally.) There is no mention of what grapes are use for this wine but it doesn’t really matter since there is not a lot of competition within the sparkling wine in a can category. It’s very pleasant to drink though and refreshing. The bubbles are not really all that persistent so if you’re expecting a good foamy mousse on your picnic, bring a bottle of a traditional method instead. This is a frizzante-style of sparkling wine but I can name a lot of frizzante wines with better bubbles than this. Whether this is the can’s fault or not is hard to tell since I haven’t tried the bottled version to compare it. Regardless, it’s got an unexpectedly long finish and lovely floral flavours that keep things interesting through the whole experience. This is clearly a gamble for Seaside Pearl to can this wine and I sincerely hope it pays off for them. It’s a lovely wine and I totally recommend it for enjoying anywhere you can lug a can.
50th Parallel Glamour Farming Gewurztraminer
This winery has impressed me since they opened although it wasn’t their Gew that did it. Regardless, it has been a consistent performer from what I’ve tasted and the canned version doesn’t disappoint. It’s got enough of those Gew-y aromatics to make it pleasing and with strong enough flavours that it won’t get dismantled by a picnic potato salad or random sandwich. Gewurztraminer to me reminds me summers in BC (summers without a heat dome) because the floral / wildflower aromas. I choose this one to see if the can format had any effect on a wine’s aromatic expression. Based on this wine at least, there is no detrimental effects that I can perceive. A lovely wine in a can or bottle is still a lovely wine.
Domaine de Chaberton Red
The only red example that I could find, this one was a bit predictable. I expected a smooth and fruity red, because that’s what I’ve had from Chaberton in the past, and that’s what I got. No harsh tannins, no jagged edges or tangy cheap taste here. Tasting it from a glass, it wasn’t possible to tell if it had come from a bottle or not because it didn’t matter. It’s not Nota Bene and it won’t win the night at a dinner party but it was solid and tasted way better than any ‘cardbordeaux’ or budget-level wine imported from anywhere else in the world. And being that it was the only red in a can on the shelf, Charberton should be applauded for jumping into cans so early with a unique product.
The bottom line
In all fairness, some might find that comparing wines in a can to their bottled brethren might be comparing apples to oranges but I don’t think so. If a winery is going to start using different packaging for the same wine, it is good to know if there are going to be differences. I am aware that wineries that produce bag-in-box versions of wines that they also bottle will use slightly different blends for various production reasons.
I should note that when tasting these wines, I did not sip them straight out the can. I used a wine glass for trying all of the wines although I know that most people will probably drink them straight from the can on an outing or excursion. Aromas are a big part the wine experience for me and getting them out of a can is not exactly ideal. There is a reason why nobody cares what beer or Coke smells like because it doesn’t matter. The serving vessel itself doesn’t promote that idea either. Wine has a different lineage though and for me, it matters.
However, these products are being sold on the concept of “Convenience” and they are exactly that – easy to pack for a hike, canoe ride, or wherever and with a lot less weight and waste than even a half-bottle can offer. Even one can is enough to share with a friend.
There may be a bit of sticker shock when you first see the price. I know I balked at when I first saw them on the shelf. Why pay between $7-$10 for 250mls when I can take a can of cider or beer and get more to enjoy? When I multiplied the price by 3 (a can is 1/3rd of a regular wine bottle), the price didn’t seem all that extravagant. All of the wines that I saw would have retailed for under $30 for a bottle and the cans added up to less than the full retail price of the bottled version. 50th Parallel’s Pinot Gris sells for $8/can on their website but the bottled version is $22.50, making the equivalent cost of the cans a better deal. Perhaps lower packaging costs allows the winery to do that? Bottles cost more and aren’t going to be getting any less expensive anytime soon.
Some wine is sold in cans. Get used to it. For casual wine enjoyment, it’s going to be difficult to match. Hopefully it won’t be going anywhere. I know I’ll be buying more.
Cheers from wine country!