It’s Beginning to Taste a Lot Like Canned Wine
Counting down the days until Christmas with five cheap cans of wine (and one nice bottle)
My wife Jill and I enjoy wine. For whatever reason, we also enjoy torturing ourselves with silly ongoing projects. No surprise, then, that every year we talk about hunting down one of those wine advent calendars from somewhere like Aldi or Costco. Unfortunately(?) for us, our FOMO is never powerful enough to inspire the kind of research and waiting in line it would take to actually get our hands on one. This year was no different, we still didn’t get one. But a mixture of boredom and self-hatred did drive us to steal the idea and create an abbreviated wine Advent calendar. With cans.
I visited two large wine retailers and bought one of every can I could without overlapping too often with styles, which proved tough as just about every can I found was filled with rosé. In the end I found five — a somewhat lame number — but it would have to do. To give us something to look forward to, I added a single bottle from one of our favorite producers to enjoy on the final day of our aluminum-centered adventure.
Finally, I got the cans home, wrapped them, and let Jill know she would be in charge of choosing and unwrapping when the time came.
On Sunday, December 20th, it was game time. Jill unwrapped the first can, and our adventure began. Here’s what happened.
Day 1: December 20th
Wine: Weed Cellars Chenin Blanc & Viognier
Pre-drinking thoughts: I have higher hopes for this can for a few reasons. First, I appreciate that it uses some slightly less popular grapes compared to most of the other wines, and it sports a vintage. The name confuses and intrigues me. Weed Cellars? Is this a cannabis company that also dabbles in wine? Or a reference to a possible vegetal flavor?
My tasting notes: Inoffensive, but muted and bland. There’s a hint of some nice aromas, maybe some honeysuckle, but it’s far away. Tastes flat, almost like it was a more interesting and dynamic wine, but then it sat out too long and lost it’s vigor. It’s not gross, it’s just barely there at all. I feel like you could drink this straight out of the can and you wouldn’t miss anything compared to drinking it out of a proper wine glass. I wouldn’t say no to this if someone gave me a chilled can at a picnic, but I’ll never buy it again. Something about the way it tastes screams “underage drinking.”
Jill’s tasting notes: “It smells fine, although there’s not much of a smell at all. Maybe a little like pears with a hint of alcohol? The taste isn’t bad in your mouth, but then you swallow, and the finish is kind of ugly. Like it’s a fruit juice that tried to learn how to be a wine from reading a book, but it didn’t quite make it. But it’s not bad! I could see it being on the upper end of the cans we try. I might look back on this wine fondly.”
Day 2: December 21st
Wine: Crafters Union Brut Rosé Bubbles
Vintage: No Vintage
Pre-drinking thoughts: This one frightens me. It looks like a kitchen wallpaper from the 60’s, the most specific they’ll tell you about the origin of the grapes is “America,” and it’s the cheapest of the bunch. There’s also no vintage, but you kind of expect that with canned wine, so I don’t count that against it. On the plus side, all it needs to do to exceed expectations is to be pleasant, fruity, and bubbly. If it does those three things I’ll call it a huge win.
My tasting notes: Based on my previously established metrics for success, this can is a winner. Dry, nice bubbles, pleasantly fruity. The fact that it’s four bucks a can is just icing on the cake. Frankly, I can’t believe it. What an awesome surprise. I’d buy this again.
Jill’s tasting notes: “This is great, five out of five cans! It smells like fresh berries and it tastes like it too, but with bubbles. Fresh berry bubbles. I’ve had a lot of rosé, and this is pretty good! I might be giving it too much credit since my expectations were so low, but I’m still giving it five out of five cans.”
Day 3: December 22nd
Wine: Underwood Pinot Noir
Vintage: No Vintage
Pre-drinking thoughts: My hopes are high with this one. I love Oregon Pinot, and I see cans of this at casual restaurants on the regular. How awesome would it be to have a reliably decent, ultra cheap red wine I can enjoy during meals out? Or during picnics? Or camping? I better be careful, I’m getting kind of excited.
My tasting notes: This does not taste like a Pinot Noir at all. Would have guessed Merlot if I tried it blind. Not terrible, but it tastes “dead” in similar way to the Weed Cellars can from day 1. Just bland and boring and fruity. Kept hoping it would open up, but it never really did.
Jill’s tasting notes: “It’s kinda’ got a raspberry, chocolatey smell, I think. Although something about it just doesn’t smell like a wine to me, there’s no hint of alcohol on the nose. Smells like a weird juice. Tastes good, though. Muted overall — I feel like all the flavors are really soft. It’s a wine you can be drinking and forget that you’re drinking while you’re drinking it. Three and a half out of five cans.”
Day 4: December 23rd
Wine: AVA Grace Vineyards Rosé
Vintage: No Vintage
Pre-drinking thoughts: This one exudes the vibes of a hip church with a popular Instagram account. After how surprisingly enjoyable that sparkling rosé was the other day, I’m trying not to judge.
My tasting notes: This one actually smells like something! Some floral aromas and sweet berry smells. The can claims that it’s a delicate wine, and while I wouldn’t go that far, it’s absolutely delicate compared to the other cans we’ve tried. I did find myself wishing that it was bubbly, but that’s just me getting picky. Exceeds canned wine expectations for sure.
Jill’s tasting notes: “Smells like every other rosé I’ve ever had. Light and pretty! It has a nice taste — nothing super memorable, but very easy and drinkable. I find myself looking forward to each sip. There’s a kind of strawberry citrus thing going on. I’m only having half a can, but if I had a whole one, I’d drink the entire thing. Four and a half out of five cans. Because I’m only having half a can.”
Day 5: December 24th — Christmas Eve
Wine: Porch Pounder Chardonnay
Origin: Central Coast, CA
Pre-drinking thoughts: This one gives a specific origin and vintage, but it has a truly awful name. Screw it, we’ll see!
My tasting notes: Hey, this doesn’t smell bad. Some lemon aromas, and it doesn’t smell dead. It tastes kind of like juicy fruit. Kind of sweet, but just enough acid to not be gross. Definitely not good, but not terrible.
Jill’s tasting notes: “Smells good. Well, good is a strong word. Smells like straw, a little tangy, maybe mildewy, but not in a bad way? It tastes nice, but it’s missing a little something at the end to remind me that it’s actually wine. It needs to maybe be sharper, and a little more alcoholy. Not bad though! Three out of five cans.”
Day 6: December 25th — Christmas Day
Wine: Winderlea Worden Hill Syrah
Origin: Brittan Vineyards, OR
Pre-drinking thoughts: Winderlea was our favorite stop on an Oregon wine trip a couple of years ago, and I love Syrah, so I’m expecting good things.
My tasting notes: Smells earthy and mushroomy and with a lot of smoke. The taste is wild — dark fruit and tangy and with a long, warm finish. Not a subtle wine. After a week of being pleasantly surprised when the cans tasted acceptable, this is a revelation. Absolutely delicious.
Jill’s tasting notes: “At last! A wine that smells like a wine. Smells warm and cozy, like a weighted blanket. It tastes so good. It’s a big wine — everything is full power, unlike the canned wine we had, which tasted like you were drinking through a pillow. Has a smoke and tobacco thing going on.”
Stacking Them Up
No annoying list would be complete without a final ranking, so here it is. The following positions were agreed on by both Jill and myself and are thus incredibly official.
1st — Worden Hill Syrah from Winderlea (duh)
2nd — Crafters Union Brut Rosé Bubbles
3rd — AVA Grace Vineyards Rosé
4th — Porch Pounder Chardonnay
5th — Underwood Pinot Noir
6th —Weed Cellars Chenin Blanc & Viognier
We fully expected to hate at least one or two of these cans, but much to our surprise, that did not happen. While I wouldn’t call any of the cans great, at least one was good, and none were gross. The most common shared trait in the bunch was a kind of bland flatness, which is maybe why we both liked the sparkling dry rosé — the bubbles keep things feeling lively.
The fact that our top canned pick was the one I was dreading the most is a lesson in humility. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover might be a clichéd idiom, but I guess I still need some practice in applying that lesson in the real world.