Just the mention of the words “canned wine” evokes polarized emotions from many wine consumers and producers: cheap versus quality, tasteless versus revolutionary, low value versus high end. Ultimately, the difference between canned and bottled wine is simple – the containment method. From this difference generates many other questions regarding canned wine based on the assumptions of what we know about bottled wine. For example, “Why would a producer can wines?” “Is there a special type of treatment that must occur with the aluminum of the cans to prevent a metallic taste in the wine?” “How well does a wine age in a can?” “Does canned wine need to breathe?” “Do you drink canned wine from the can?” Based on the information gleaned from an interview with Jake Stover, owner of Sans Wine Company, a wine producer who exclusively cans their wines, I aim to answer these questions in this article to better inform wine consumers about canned wines.
We’ll start with the “why” regarding canned wines. In no particular order of importance, canned wines offer a better eco-friendly containment option, greater accessibility and flexibility in consumer transport, and a more stable packaging opportunity. According to earth911.com, though glass and cans have comparable demands on our environment for production, it is clear that aluminum is preferred regarding transport. Glass is heavy and fragile, ultimately limiting shipping efficiencies resulting in higher fuel consumption and less product shipped per square foot of transportation space. Additionally, earth911.com states that “because aluminum isn’t particularly fragile, cans use less cardboard packaging when transported as well, meaning more room for cans.” Both glass bottles and aluminum cans are 100% repeatedly recyclable. Ultimately, earth911.com’s #1 recommendation for containment method is aluminum cans because “their low transportation footprint and ease of recyclability make them a winner.”
Many argue in favor of canned wines for the accessibility and flexibility in consumer transport. For example, aluminum cans are more widely accepted in locations where glass bottles are not such as the beach, pools and parks. Additionally, when carrying wine to locations that permit glass bottles, the weight of a glass bottle is 3.3 pounds versus 0.86 pounds per can of wine (which when containing 375mL of wine, is one half bottle in volume) – so, approximately 3.3 pounds versus 1.72 pounds, nearly half the weight.
The most applicable attribute to the benefit of the actual wine within the container is the stability of canned wines over bottled. Jake Stover of Sans Wine Company explains that canned wine is “a great vessel for making wines in a natural fashion because the risk of spoilage is actually way less and the necessity to use preservatives like sulfur is minimized because the can is such a stable environment.” Wine Spectator.com references 2005 findings where their senior editor, James Laube, found that “7% of 2,800 bottles sampled during tastings that year were tainted” by the cork. Canned wine eliminates this risk of spoilage of the wine within the vessel.
Understanding the canning process provides greater insight to tailor a consumer’s expectations when the time comes to crack open a canned wine.
“When you’re bottling wine, typically the bottles are sparged with nitrogen gas or possibly liquid nitrogen, and that’s to force out any oxygen [out of the bottle] so that there’s an anti-oxydative state in the bottle. We do the same thing with the can but because the entire lid of the can is pressed onto the can body, which is a pretty large wide opening for oxygen to be introduced, what we’re doing is we’ll sparge nitrogen gas in the cans and then the cans are filled and then right before the lid is pressed on, the wines are all dosed with liquid nitrogen. What that does is it forces out all potential oxygen or nearly all the oxygen out of the can but what it also does is that it provides pressure and stability on the canned wall. With a beer or soda that is carbonated, that’s how you get that outward pressure feel to the can. With the wine, we want to have that same pressure and also create a really stable environment. So its that dose of liquid nitrogen that provides that for us. In essence, because there’s no UV penetration into the can, there’s no oxygen exchange through a cork, and we have that lack of head space and liquid nitrogen that’s in stasis, the can ends up being a much more stable environment than the bottle and wine will age much slower in the can.” – Jake Stover, Sans Wine Company
Due to the use of liquid nitrogen that Stover references, this can alter the recommended tasting methodology from a can versus a bottle. When a can of wine is opened, the nitrogen transitions from the liquid state, which may require a few minutes to obtain a more accurate tasting of the wine without the influence of the nitrogen gas. Additionally, the liquid and gaseous nitrogen may give an illusion of effervescence in the wine until the nitrogen gas has time to “air off”. A canned wine may “breathe” more quickly when poured into a glass due to the wider opening for the nitrogen gas to escape, though not a requirement. Furthermore, drinking the wine from the can may limit the aromatic potential of the wine due to the small opening of the can and the necessity for air to flow over the wine to maximize aromatics. Stover explains that when drinking from the can, aromatics are maximized once a few drinks have been consumed from the can, which opens up the head space in the can and allows air to flow over the wine. In a recent tasting of Sans Wine Company’s wines, I compared the smelling and tasting experience from the can versus a glass. Though the wine tasted identical from both the glass and the can, I assessed that aromatics were significantly muted when observed through the can due to the small opening, though were quite robust when poured into a glass.
When I asked Stover his preference of drinking vessel (can versus glass), he said “we’re really pro drinking it right out of the can. That being said, at home, we’ll split a can which is about two healthy glasses and we’ll share that in glassware as well.”
Ultimately, Stover said it best:
“I don’t think there’s a canned wine brand that’s trying to replace bottles. There are a handful of producers that are trying to make high quality wines…so that people can enjoy their wines really conveniently.”
I challenge you to try a canned wine. Sans Wine Company is one of a limited number of producers who is canning quality wines, however, many producers provide sparkling wines and Rosés that are affordable, refreshing and convenient for your upcoming outdoor Spring activities! If you choose to try a canned wine, please share your wine of choice and experience with me at Facebook.com/grapejuicemom or instagram.com/thegrapejuicemom! Cheers!