Following up in our discussion on wine trends, especially as we enjoy beachside summertime sunsets, we look to the continually growing category of wines in cans. More and more wines are finding their new home enveloped in an aluminum home.
My first introduction to canned wines was in 2014 when consulting for my dear friend Chef Joanne Bondy and “Stocks and Bondy” for their wine selection with Underwood, the entry-level brand for Willamette Valley’s Union Wine Company dedicated to producing everyday, quality wines Oregonians would be proud of, at a reasonable price. Though Francis Ford Coppola has been making the “Sofia” mini sparkling wines for years, the first still wine in a can for me was Underwood Oregon Pinot Noir. Inexpensive, retailing for around $6 a can, with each serving the equivalent of half a bottle, it is an incredible deal for the quality. And there is quality there. Marketed as an every day, easy drinking Oregon Pinot, the wine is fresh, leading with fruit-filled strawberry, raspberry, and cherry. The wine isn’t the most complex, but it is also more than palatable and quite enjoyable.
Shortly after Underwood debuted, the canned wine market began to pop and has not looked back, creating a $69 million industry last year. Today wines are being crafted solely for production in cans, and dozens of everyday wine are finding a home on retailers shelves in both the bottled wine and canned wine areas. These are everyday wines, meant to be enjoyed over barbecues and sunsets. For all of them, Underwood is still a reliable brand in the market.
Canned wine, boxed wine, wine on tap, screw caps and fancy stelvins, and wines bottled in every shape vessel imaginable, wineries today are looking for an edge to attract consumers of all ages to pick up their product over their competition. The desire to sell to millennials is the sole focus for some, while others hope to deliver convenience, while others are looking to their history and what has worked in other countries in the past, finding avenues of success in America. But, not all boxed, canned, and screw-cap wines are the same. Within the growing market, a few shine. I have been doing a little taste testing, and in the grand scheme of the category, these box shine among the crowd. I will feature the best of the growing canned wine options in my next post up shortly. #Cheers!
In the boxed wine category, I prefer Rose selections, seconded only by white wine options. I had an incredible, highly-inexpensive, boxed dry Semillon from Sauternes a few years ago while in France, and it proved the quality of the boxed wine abroad. Now we’re beginning to see this in America. The key for both styles is to ensure the wines are very cold when consumed, ideally enjoyed on a sunshine filled day by the pool or on the beach.
For red wine in a box, I have found the best are selections from outside the United States. Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Greek, German, French and so many others winemakers have pleased their customers with bag-in-box options for generations, putting the same quality wines that they may have put in a bottle for their export market in a box for their local consumers. If you can find one of these quality selections, grab it! Also, keep in mind, they are usually your every day, entry-level wines meant to be enjoyed by the pool or with a light weeknight meal. In general, these aren’t your special occasion wines.
The best Rose I have found is the Wine Cube Rose, sold exclusively at Target. ($17/3L at Target) Juicy, clean, and crisp layering fresh watermelon, strawberry, and tangerine, with just a hint of pink color. Fruity verses floral or sweet herb-forward enjoyed throughout a sunshine-filled day. If you are in an area without a Target, first off, I am sorry, and then give the Botta Box Dry Rose a try ($19/3L available at most grocery stores). It is a bit darker, and more robust than the Wine Cube option, with dark cherry, red plum, and raspberry with herbal notes on the finish.
For whites, I love the La Petite Frog Picpoul de Pinet ($30/3L at Total Wine) from the Languedoc region of Southern France. Slightly more expensive than some of their white wine counterparts, but worth it as the salty, minerally crushed stone flavors of the sea come through in a fresh, lemon-lime, lilikoi, and pineapple filled wine with hints of briny salinity, ideal for pairing with summer seafood dishes or a simple platter of raw oysters.
For reds, as noted, I am still on the lookout for the very best of the bunch. But, for a smooth, juicy option with fruit-forward flavors of cherry, prune, and licorice, Folonari Montepulciano d’Abruzzo ($18/3l at Total Wine) from the Abruzzi region of Italy is a great option, blending 5% Montepulciano and 15% Sangiovese creating a food-friendly wine with a hint of leathery earthiness, best enjoyed shortly after release. For a few dollars more, give the La Vieille Ferme Rhone Red Blend ($28/3L at Total Wine) a try. Layering Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, and Cinsault, hand selected by the Perrin family, melding ripe red cherry, blackberry, black plum, and wild herb aromas of the Mediterranean influenced garigue. This wine is also sold in a 750ml bottle under screw-cap for only $6 a bottle, i.e. you could technically buy 4 bottles, equivalent to 3L and save a few dollars.
For boxed wine cocktails, classically Sangria is a mix of Spanish wine, brandy, fresh fruit, and fruit juice, paired perfectly with pintxos and tapas, seafood paella, or plates of Spanish Manchego, croquettes, and Jamon. I love making Sangria from white or red wine, adding peaches, apples, star fruit and lots of citrus.
Beso del Sol Sangria ($19/3L at Spec’s) comes boxed and premixed and ready to sip in three flavors, white, red and Rose, ready to be poured over ice and garnished with your favorite fruit. It is very sweet. But, if that’s your flavor profile, this could be your new summer favorite. Gary loves it.
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