This column originally was going to be a Q&A, featuring questions I’ve received over the past few months from readers, former wine class students and friends (yes, I do have a few).
But, as is often said, timing is everything. The first question I was going to use was this: “I’m seeing more and more wine in cans in the stores. What’s your opinion?”
My response was going to be: I’m going to channel Will Rogers (millennials should Google him) and say I’ve never met a can of wine I like. But that’s my opinion; others disagree.
About two hours later I got an email from a PR rep touting wine in “aluminum bottles.” That’s clever marketing. Yeah, they really are cans, but “aluminum bottles” sounds higher class. She sent some.
So I sat down and reworked that column into this column.
These three wines are from Sterling Vineyards, one of Napa Valley’s legacy wineries, and a lovely place to visit. And I can say very good things about two of them; nice things about the third.
Canned wines are sprouting up on store shelves like mushrooms after a good rain. There are several reasons for that. Good points about canned wine include their portability and ease of storing. If you are looking for an easy-to-tote beverage to serve chilled with a picnic, or at an event, canned wines can work. Just don’t expect wine that will make you rave — although quality is improving.
Wine in cans is not exposed to sunlight, and you never have to worry about a corkscrew. Some cans are pop tops; the three from Sterling are screw tops.
One other positive: Recent research has shown that twice as many cans find their way into recycling bins as bottles.
The Sterling trio includes chardonnay, rose and cabernet sauvignon. These attractive bottles/cans hold 375 ML of wine, equal to half a standard-sized bottle. They carry a price tag of around $8, which might seem high. But $16 for a better-than-decent bottle is not at all unreasonable.
I really like the rose. It’s almost fully dry, with a touch of citrus in the mouth. I sampled this one the way it should be consumed — on a hot August day while sitting on the back porch. I drank half from the can/bottle and the other half from a glass, so I could appreciate the color. The wine is light in both hue and body. This is a well-made dry rose. I can imagine pulling one of these out of a cooler during a sun scorched day on Lake Lanier and welcoming the chilled refreshment.
The chardonnay, too, is good quality wine. Comes rolling out of the can unmistakably chardonnay in color and aroma. It even has trademark chardonnay viscosity. Is it a rombauer? Not quite. But I judge these wines in the context of what they are: casual drinking for the beach, the park, the pool — or the back porch. In that context the chardonnay and rose deliver. There are hints of bright fruit in the chard, but do not expect an oaky, fruit-salad wine.
And I detected no metallic taste when I sipped directly from either container.
About the cabernet — well, it’s OK. Nothing negative to say about it, but I expect a tad more complexity from my cabs. This is a simple red wine. And while you don’t serve this wine well-chilled, as with the chard and rose, it’s significantly better with a light cooling rather than straight from the can/bottle at room temp.
Overall I find these three wines from Sterling a large cut above just about all the canned wines I have sampled over the last year.
P.S. Remember to recycle the aluminum bottles.
Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on the first Wednesday of the month and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.
Wine of the Month
Russiz Superiore Collio Cabernet Franc 2016
The wine: Dry, medium-bodied red table wine.
The grapes: 100% cabernet Franc.
The source: Collio region of northeastern Italy.
The verdict: When I think of the Friuli region of Italy, of which Collio is a part, cabernet Franc is not the grape type that leaps to mind. Until now. This one wowed me. It’s rich, complex, ringing with flavors and aromas, silky in the mouth. My only complaint about it is I don’t have more of it — and it might be difficult to find locally. Due to the composition of the vineyard soil you may notice a minerally taste, which, frankly, enhances the overall sensation. Aging for a year in small oak casks lends a pleasant woodsy aroma and rounds out the flavors of dark fruit. It’s ready to drink now but will stand a few more years of aging.The price: About $30.