Summer Survival: Canned Wine

With temperatures heating up and the days growing long, it seems like everyone is ready to shake the dust off their fishing rods, hiking boots, tents, trailers, and campers.

Summer activities—from boating around the local lake to roasting s’mores by the campfire—are traditionally paired with beer. The occasional mason jar of moonshine might also make an appearance, or perhaps a stainless steel flask etched with a sarcastic saying and filled with your liquor of choice. Wine is usually an afterthought in summer, if it’s included on the menu at all.

I’ve often wondered why that is. Surely I can’t be the only one with a hankering for a big glass of Amarone under the stars, or who thinks a crisp Sancerre would pair nicely with fresh-caught grilled fish.

Let’s briefly examine the reasons behind our summer beverage choices.

  1. Convenience. Many people are uncomfortable opening wine. Unless there’s a screw cap involved, uncorking a bottle can be a bit of a production. Since not everyone is a somm who keeps a wine key in their car, purse, backpack, and everywhere else, they may feel ill-equipped to open a bottle of wine on the fly in the great outdoors. So for most, wine isn’t worth the hassle.
  2. Taste. When it’s hot, we crave something refreshing, cold, and carbonated. Beer hits the spot for the average American. Sodas and other mixers with a shot or two of the hard stuff are also appetizing. Most of us don’t want to reach for a glass of bold, smoky Cabernet served at room temperature when we’re sweating. All too many of us forget about chilled rose and ice cold sparkling wines.
  3. Price. Over and over again I watch people make the assumption that to get good wine you have to pay top dollar. We imagine that wine exists in two categories—the cheap, crappy stuff (i.e. Boone’s Farm) that one drinks in college, and the delicious, refined, but overpriced stuff (i.e. Chateau Margaux) that’s always slightly out of the budget. When you want to party on the Fourth of July, you want to get it done without breaking the bank—meaning wine is right out.

But fear not, friends! I may have a solution to your summer wine woes: canned wine.

Yep, that’s right. I, a sommelier, recommended “canned wine” on my wine blog. You thought I was classier than that, right? Think again! There’s nothing tacky or gauche about a beverage packaged for your convenience.

I was definitely a skeptic at first. Granted, I still prefer to drink my wine in a glass straight from the bottle or decanter, but I’ve come around to the idea of canned wine. Most canned wines don’t use aluminum, so you don’t need to worry about that metallic, tinny taste ruining your vino. And once you get over the shock of popping open a cold one and tasting actual wine, you might grow to love this trend!

Here are a handful of canned wines I found at my local adult beverage depot, complete with my tasting notes and review.

Pop + Fizz
For me, Pop + Fizz is the most natural fit of all the canned wines I tried. We expect fizzy drinks to come out of a can. And, like sodas or sparkling water, most of us enjoy sparkling wine served ice cold. Pop + Fizz is nothing to compose poetry about—it’s a basic, crisp, refreshing sparkling wine. It’s not going to give Veuve Clicquot or Piper Heidsick a run for their money, but it’s fun, convenient, and a crowd pleaser. It’s great for someone who’s not feeling too picky but just wants another option in the ice chest besides beer.

Wine #1, pictured at game night, because sparkling wine pairs well with starship combat.

Gladiator Cycles Pinot Noir, California
First of all, can we talk about the packaging? This ethereal, otherworldly image enticed me, beckoning a drink. Sipping a bonafide, earth-and-cherry bomb Pinot Noir from a can was a little unsettling. Had I poured it into a glass, I’m not sure I’d have been able to tell the difference between this or any other generic California Pinot Noir. The aromas and flavors of cherry, blackberry, earth, and loamy soil were there. Not bad for something that comes in the same vessel as soda.

Wine #2: warning, this may cause serious can envy.

Tiamo Pinot Grigio, California
Here’s another case of cute packaging. Upon popping the can, the familiar aromas of a sun-drenched Tuscan (or in this case, Californian) Pinot Grigio greeted me. Ripe stone fruits—peach, apricot, and pear, with that familiar new tire/superheated tarmac smell I associate with the varietal. On the palate, the fruit-driven flavors continued. This Pinot Grigio wasn’t complex, but anyone who prefers dry but fruit-forward wines will enjoy this offering.

Wine #3: under the Tuscan sunflowers?

Before we review the last two cans, I want to make note of something. Anyone who knows me is aware of  how picky I am about Texas wine, and that Messina Hof (a very popular mass-production venture) is far from my favorite producer. Still, sometimes as a somm it’s not about what you personally like, but what you think your guests might like. You have to be informed about all types of wine. So, with that in mind, I put my brave face on and tried some canned Messina Hof.

Messina Hof Rose, Texas
A traditional dry rose inspired by Provence, although it doesn’t quite taste like it. This is a rose of Grenache, and though the Mediterranean red grapes can stand the Texas heat, they may have suffered from overripeness at harvest, giving the wine a bit of unwanted jamminess. Flavors of strawberries and orange zest dominate the one-dimensional palate, but overall the wine is decently tasty when chilled. It’s certainly better than the alternative—no wine!

Wines #4 and #5.

Messina Hof Beau, Texas
Try this if you have a sweet tooth. The wine itself is a mix of unspecified “red grapes” blended with Muscat Canelli white grapes. On the nose, I was assualted by what smelled like perfume. Floral notes and scents of candied red fruit abound. On the palate, flavors of sugarplum and blackberry jam continued. Honestly, my overall impression of this wine is that it’s reminiscent of Fruit Punch, like one of the Hi-C juice boxes of my childhood summers. Were I on a raft floating in the middle of the Guadalupe River and I reached into my cooler to find one of these, I’d probably drink it.

While I’m not a big Messina Hof fan, a lot of Texans love them. If you ever wander through my home state, it’s relatively easy (and cheap) to get your hands on their wines.

Conclusion

While it’s true that canned wines aren’t going to displace the regular bottled variety in popularity or quality, the handful of canned wines I tried were decent, drinkable, and damn easy to travel with. You can’t really cellar age canned wine, and these cans might look silly in the candlelight at your next date night. Still, if you’re looking for an easily packed addition to your ice chest this summer, look no further.