After disrupting the beverage industry less than a decade ago, canned wine quickly evolved from a trend to an autonomous market with a devoted following.
“Canned wine exploded for many reasons,” says Alix Peabody, founder and CEO of the direct-to-consumer, canned wine company, Bev. “First, the convenience of the can allows consumers to take the wine virtually anywhere: beaches, boats, parks. Second, [most] canned wines are single serve. This means that one 250ml can is a glass and a half of wine; the single serving allows [portion] control for the consumer.”
Now even more prevalent than ever, as COVID-19 temporarily scrapped open container laws in cities throughout the U.S., canned wines have an opportunity to appeal to a wider audience. But will they?
“Since canned wines are relatively new to the beverage industry, there is a lot of trial and error in the production methods of canned wines. This has resulted in inconsistent quality across the board,” says Giselle Sigala, Sommelier at Chelsea Wine Vault, the wine store within Chelsea Market, New York City.
This inconsistency is responsible for some of the popularized misconceptions now associated with canned wines—produced from low quality grapes, cheap, sweet, metallic and without longevity—presenting a possible hurdle for extending the product’s reach outside its current demographic.
Debunking The Myths
“All canned wines are not equal,” says Jim Doehring, President and Founder of Source Code Beverage, producers of Backpack Wine. “There are tiers of canned wine just like there are tiers of bottles in terms of quality. It is completely possible to put a high quality product in a can and enjoy it.”
While a high quality product certainly begins with high quality grapes and clean ingredients, quality is also affected during production and canning, with the volatility of the aluminum can as a significant factor in avoiding the metallic taste.
“The canning process is crucial to creating a wine that won’t react to metal negatively. In order to avoid this, winemakers must avoid adopting the ‘one-can-fits-all’ approach,” says Sigala who noticed winemakers using less sulfur and copper—typically used as preservatives and pesticides in the vineyard—with canned wines due to a negative reaction between these chemicals and the aluminium.
Today, however, the most prevalent solution to avoiding a metallic taste is lining cans to avoid the wine’s direct contact with the aluminum. “At first many producers filled unlined cans and thus made the runway to broad consumer acceptance longer,” says Darren Restivo, principal of Biagio Cru Wines & Spirits, creator of Rosé All Day. “Today, most wines in a can use some type of liner which eliminates the chances of metal contacting the wine and thus the metal taste.”
Linings can include a BPA-free proprietary ceramic polymer liner like in Backpack Wine or an epoxy liner, used by Love & Exile in Nashville, Tennessee. “The can itself essentially exists to house and maintain the structure of the plastic liner inside, and should never come in contact with the wine,” says Tyler Alkins, founder of Love & Exile.
Another way to ensure quality of canned wine, is to work with less acidic varieties opposed to heavy, tannic varieties that benefit from aging in a glass bottle. “This gears toward easy drinking, lighter varieties such as Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir and sparkling wines,” says Sigala.
“Our biggest consideration is who is drinking our wine and where,” says Alkins, recognizing canned wines’ popularity at outdoor events, from concerts to the beach to the golf course. “Generally, there’s less need to consider a food pairing. Subsequently, we tend to use very limited oak, keep tannins to a minimum and emphasize a fruit forward, refreshing structure.”
Using dry varieties also helps to reduce sugar and sweetness, something that canned wine brand, Bev, takes a step further by producing all three of their offerings—Rosé, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc—with zero grams of residual sugar and a slight effervescence. “We know that some people have been wronged by bad experiences with too-sweet canned wines; Bev is personally debunking this myth by offering canned wines that are dry, high quality, and taste amazing,” says Peabody.
As consumers caught onto the convenience, portability and portion control of canned wines, winemakers also recognized its benefits. “Canned wine is significantly cheaper to package (no label, cork, capsule) which allows us to keep the price lower,” says Alkins of Love & Exile. “In addition, cans are not subject to UV damage, they’re a fraction of the weight, and much more convenient to recycle.”
Though cans are less subject to UV damage, winemakers still suggest avoiding direct sunlight as an extreme in temperatures can affect any wine; optimal storage temperature is between 62 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
“As with all wines, the shelf life varies based on the quality of wine and type of wine,” says Restivo. “Wine in a can has the potential to have a longer shelf life than in a bottle due to the complete lack of oxygen.”
When wines are canned, the liquid is filled to the brim, before oxygen is removed and the tops are sealed. The final additions in the canning process will vary by brand; Bev adds a slight carbonation due to the psychological familiarity of drinking something fizzy out of a can and Backpack Wine uses a drop of liquid nitrogen as the lid seals for a firmer can and fresher wine.
“It’s an exciting time for canned wines,” concludes Sigala. “Wine is going through an identity shift from something that was only acceptable to drink in a more formal setting, to being normalized as a casual beverage likened to beer.”
9 Canned Wines to Try
Now that the most prevalent misconceptions surrounding canned wines have been explained, here are a few brands to try from a chuggable red to a refreshing wine-based cocktail, that may just convert a bottle snob from glass to can:
For something light + classic
Bev Gris: a Pinot Gris with hints of elderflower, pear and grapefruit.
For a taste of summer with texture
Crafter’s Union Brut Rosé: a bright, bubbly, slightly floral sip (notes of strawberry and watermelon).
For something chuggable
Indecent Red Blend, Love & Exile: a smooth, sexy blend of 80% Grenache, 20% Rubired (best served slightly chilled).
For a no-fuss sundowner
Rosé All Day Spritz Can: a delicate combination of rosé, bubbles and grapefruit.
For a canned-variety hybrid
Underwood Riesling Radler: a blend of Oregon Riesling, grapefruit and hops.
For the ultimate afternoon at the beach
Beach Juice: light, elegant, refreshing Provence-style rosé with aromas of berry and melon.
For a mid-hike refreshment
Backpack Wine Snappy White: a Washington State Chardonnay with a pleasantly dry, acidic finish.
For your go-to spritzer
MOVO Blood Orange Sangria: a mix of red wine, sparkling water and natural juices that take the work out of concocting a wine spritzer.
For when you’re feeling fancy
Tangent Rosé: a rosé blend of Albariño, Pinot Noir, Viognier and Grenache.