There was a time when the idea of wine in an aluminum can was horrifying. Something as noble as wine coming in a beer can was akin to fingernails on a chalkboard. While this might project a bit of traditional bias or perhaps some good old-fashioned wine snobbishness is difficult to say.
It’s a moot point these days. Wine in a can has become commonplace, so much so that Washington’s largest wineries now embrace the concept. There are many good reasons to appreciate wine from a can. Perhaps the best is that we might view it as the democratization of wine.
It’s now a beverage in a container anyone can open. The consumer doesn’t require a tool – a corkscrew – that not every household has and not everyone knows how to use. It also makes it easier to toss a can into a cooler, which makes wine seem more approachable to consumers.
It means wine can compete with beer in grocery stores, as well as come along on camping trips, barbecues and tailgate parties. Still, canned wines are best enjoyed by pouring them into something that will allow you to more easily gather up the aromas. An unbreakable and reusable stemless cup such as the Govino is a great option.
The Pacific Northwest has reached a tipping point with wine in a can. Industry-leading brands in Washington such as 14 Hands (owned by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates), Precept’s House Wine, family-owned Barnard Griffin and Mercer Estates and Cascadia Outfitters (owned by the Monson family at Goose Ridge) have joined some of the top producers in Oregon and Idaho.
Below are several delicious examples of wine in a can. Ask for them at grocery stores or contact the producers directly. Canned wines also have been spotted in drugstores.
ICAN Wines by Mercer Estates 2018 Rosé, Washington State, $7: The family behind Mercer Estates in Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills rightly promotes its new ICAN line as a standout entry in the canned wine scene because this vessel is re-sealable, and the plastic ring around the pour spout means there’s no contact with metal.
That makes this slender and sturdy, yet lightweight aluminum canister ideal for the beach, pool, backpack or golf bag. Rosé-friendly varieties are brought into play, too, a Rhône-based blend of grenache (68%), cinsault (12%), syrah (10%) and counoise (5%) with a splash of bright sangiovese, too.
Light strawberry and lime zest notes show in its nose, with strawberry and watermelon in the mouth. There’s a bit of pear skin bite in the finish. The Mercer’s award-winning winemaker Jeremy Santo learned to party at Washington State University, but he proved that this is a serious pink wine, too, by winning a gold medal in the rosé category at the 2019 Cascadia International Wine Competition.
Canned Oregon NV White Pinot Gris, Oregon, $7: Branded as “Oregon wine beyond the bottle,” the Stoller Wine Group continues to roll out its Canned Oregon program from its vast estate plantings along the Dundee Hills. The pinot gris is built to be refreshing and food-friendly as aromas of lemon, spearmint and marzipan lead to flavors of cantaloupe, dried pineapple, butterscotch and a freshly baked biscuit.
Barnard Griffin Winery 2018 C’est le Vin Rosé, Washington, $7 (per can): Rob Griffin, the dean of Washington winemakers, practically wrote the book on how to transform sangiovese in the Columbia Valley and turn it into a gold-medal-winning rosé. The 2018 vintage is no exception.
It earned its first gold medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition in January. Three months later, the family chose to enter its canned version of that same rosé into the Cascadia, where it also went gold.
While the branding on the can is youthfully edgy, it’s the same pink sangiovese that gets bottled. Even from a can, it displays light red fruit behind the pale pink color with strawberry, watermelon and a hint of orange in the nose and on the palate. There’s a touch of minerality to go with its concluding spritely acidity.
14 Hands Winery NV Hot to Trot Smooth Red Blend, $5: The Pacific Northwest’s hottest brand recently entered the canned wine space with its wildly popular Hot to Trot. Leading with merlot and syrah, this blend by winemaker Keith Kenison shows off aromas of oak, vanilla, black cherry and plum, backed by mild tannins and a long, smooth finish that’s built for immediate enjoyment.
Suggested pairings include barbecued pork, grilled portabella mushrooms and lasagna Florentine.
Cascadian Outfitters NV Estate Red Blend, Columbia Valley, $5: The Monson family at Goose Ridge touts their young brand as the first estate-produced canned wine from Washington, and the lineup features an outline of a Sasquatch strolling through a Cascade forest toting a bottle and wine glass.
This “adventure in a can” is a blend of merlot and syrah that offers black pepper, cocoa powder, black cherry and ground cumin.
Joe to Go NV Rosé, Oregon, $7: The company that Joe Dobbes inspired – Wine by Joe – continues to grow into the canned space with its Joe to Go brand. Pinot noir and pinot gris both play roles in this brisk and refreshing rosé that is surprisingly bone dry in its approach and Provence in its appearance.
Aromas of strawberry shortcake, white peach and tangerine lead to mouthwatering flavors of pink raspberry and strawberry-rhubarb compote. Joe to Go is available in more than 30 states.
House Wine NV Original Red Blend, Chile, $6: Precept Wine in Seattle imports cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah from South America and ships it to Walla Walla, where some of the wine goes into a massive canned program.
Hal Landvoigt, Precept’s unpretentious director of winemaking, works closely each year with the same family in Chile to help him produce a quaffable red redolent of black cherry and milk chocolate that’s backed by ample acidity, baking spices and just enough tannin. Last year, House Wine produced 4.8 million cans.
Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman operate Great Northwest Wine. Learn more about wine at greatnorthwestwine.com.