I was picking up some liquid libations for a garden party on the weekend, and the friendly neighbourhood booze merchant had a large display of canned wine.
Yes, you heard that correctly. Not the traditional 750 mL glass bottle. Not even the boxed wine that cheeky boozers refer to as cardbordeaux. It was pretty much the way it sounds, wine packaged in what looks much like a beer can.
Canned wine has been quietly gaining momentum in North America over the past few years, driven primarily by millenial boozers, who have soundly rejected the stuffy traditions of the baby boomers and Gen Xers, opting for cheap and cheerful critter wines without the emotional baggage tied up in the wine traditions of yesteryear.
Canned wines are still mostly a summer seasonal thing, popping up in the springtime every year, and disappearing when the leaves begin to fall. Portability seems to be the benefit for hauling wine to a picnic, patio party, or even cruising on the lake, with the aluminum cans much lighter than glass bottles, and not prone to breakage.
Wine cans seem to favour a size of 250 mL, slightly smaller than a beer can, but exactly one-third the size of a traditional wine bottle, making them attractive for those boozers that do not want to finish an entire bottle at a picnic, or like their sparkling wines to stay bubbly for longer.
Most of the wines available in cans are fresh and bright white wines or sparklers, perfect for hot summer days. The deep and complex reds that have spent lots of time aging in oak are nowhere to be found in the canned wine section, so canned wine is definitely being pushed to the casual summer drinkers of the world, rather than the stuffy wine snobs.
Most of the canned wine at your friendly neighbourhood bottle shop comes out of California or Australia, both of which are blessed with long summers, so enjoy large domestic demands.
Closer to home, we do have canned wine coming out of Ontario, from Between the Lines Winery in the Niagara region. Made from the Vidal grape, originally from France, but made famous here in Canada as the most popular grape for Ice Wine.
I took home a varied selection, with a Sauvignon Blanc from the famed Francis Ford Coppola winery in Sonoma being my favourite. Yes, the award-winning director of The Godfather also owns an award-winning winery just outside of San Francisco, which I was lucky enough to visit many years ago.
This wine was available in bottles as well as cans, which gave me the confidence that it was more than just a cheap plonk. Light and breezy, the wine was bursting with tropical flavours and a crisp acidity that paired well with the cedar plank salmon I was cooking up on the BBQ.
I was sold on the concept of canned wine after the first few sips, but we must all remember that the can is a shipping container, and not a serving vessel, so never drink your wine directly from the can.
The wine snobs of the world will remind you that up to 70% of the flavour we get from wine is from orthonasal and retronasal olfaction, which is a fancy way of telling you to use your nose.
When drinking wine (or beer) directly from the can, you miss out entirely on the orthonasal olfaction, as the volatile aromatics you get from sticking your nose in a wineglass are entirely missing as you sip from a can, causing you to miss out on much wine-related enjoyment. This is true for beer as well, so unless you are drinking one of those tasteless macrobrews, pour that can into a proper glass!
I passed around several cans of assorted wines at my garden party, and the crowd favourite was the Big House Cardinal Zin from California. Available in 375 mL cans, each serving is half the size of a traditional wine bottle, so perfect for those boozers who do not have time for an entire bottle.
A medium bodied red wine with smoky plum and black cherries on the tongue, followed by a vanilla and dried herb finish, this was a wine that almost seemed too posh to be drinking from a can.
Look for wine in a can at your local bottle shop, and try it out for your next garden party!