Canned wine has been around for a while but up until fairly recently, the stuff you could get in Alberta wasn’t worth the price.
Cans are among a handful of alternatives to the traditional glass bottle, which still predominates as wine’s de facto packaging. Bag-in-box, cartons and Tetra Paks, plastic bottles and kegs have also surfaced as other possible options for wine packaging, but none have taken hold in any meaningful way.
It’s actually rather surprising that cans haven’t become much more prevalent in the wine world. The advantages of canned wine are the same as canned beer: Cans are much cheaper to produce and they’re lighter than glass bottles, so they are cheaper to transport. They are also more durable and less messy and dangerous if one breaks.
The association with beer is undoubtedly part of the resistance to wine in a can. Taste is also certainly a factor — wine does taste different when swigged out of a can than sipped from a glass. But if you serve canned wine in a glass, most people would never know the difference. While cans do begin to affect the taste of wine after a year or two, this is often irrelevant as the majority of wine bought in North America is consumed within 24 hours of purchase.
The real issue is traditionalism and snobbery. Wine has been stored in glass bottles and sealed with corks for centuries. That image has only started to shift in any meaningful way in the last couple decades, chiefly with the rise of screwcaps to replace corks. Over 90 per cent of Australian and New Zealand wines are now sealed with screwcaps, along with over half of North American wines. This number is lower in Europe, though it is rising. Given how long it has taken for screwcaps to become mainstream — a far less radical change to wine packaging than sticking it in a can — it’s unlikely that canned wine is going to gain much ground for several years to come.
Still, it’s worth giving canned wines a chance, especially this summer — they are perfect for camping, road trips and picnics. Cans take up way less space in your trunk or the cooler, are much lighter and more durable than bottles, plus you don’t have to worry about packing a corkscrew.
Alberta has canned wine options and they are steadily improving from what was available even a couple years ago. By far the best value is Underwood, from Oregon’s Union Wine Co., which has a very quaffable Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. Other decent choices include the range of canned wines from California’s Alloy Wine Works, which is positioning itself as a leader in the canned wine industry, and the cute mini cans of Coppola’s Sofia sparkling wine — which go down very easily on a hot summer day.