AP file photoPure flavor: Producers of canned wines use special linings to prevent the contents from picking up metallic tastes.

Canned wines have their place

Back in May, while en route to get a beer at Giants game, I noticed someone sampling wines out of a can, so I stopped to find out what it was all about.

You might wonder why I would ever put myself through such torture — after all, isn’t nine innings of a Giants game enough? I returned to my seat with a couple of samples for my friends to try, and we all agreed that they exceeded our expectations. Then I nursed my beer and waited until the last inning for Nate Schierholtz to hit a game-winning home run.

Since then, I’ve discovered that canned wines are made from Australia to Portugal. The former is known for making decent wines that come in a box, but the can is a completely different vehicle, one that its makers say is more environmentally friendly and portable than glass bottles.

Flasq made the wines I tried at the ballpark. Available in 375-milliliter bottles, it is pretty easy to transport and, should you choose, drink from. It recycles at a higher rate than glass, and the metal is also much lighter. Tim McDonald, one of the partners, says that they are not trying to compete with glass bottles, but offer a wine alternative in more of a beer format. Flasq wines are vintage dated and the fruit for the chardonnay and merlot come from different areas of the central coast. They cost about $8 retail.

All of the canned wine producers I spoke with use a lining so the wine does not get a metallic taste from the aluminum. Barokes, an Australian producer, invented Vinsafe, a system that incorporates the lining, shape and fill levels of the can into its design. Barokes makes its own wines and has licensed the technology to others.

Founded in 1996, Barokes sells four wines in the U.S., including a sparkling and a still white made from semillon and chardonnay, and a sparkling and still red composed of shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and merlot. The 250-milliliter cans sell for about $4 each or $13 for a pack of all four.

Think Wines was launched in 2007. A Portuguese company, it has a range of wines for different markets. In Portugal, native grapes are used, while Chilean fruit makes up the wines for the international market. The wines should be available in the U.S. market next year.

The Infinite Monkey Theorem makes a sweet, sparkling black muscat in a can from Colorado grapes. Now there’s something different. Owner and winemaker Ben Parsons said it started selling this wine in June and was sold out in two weeks.

A can might be greener, easier to carry and cheaper to produce than a glass bottle, but is the wine any good? Besides Flasq, I tried a few that were not bad. That may not be a ringing endorsement, but if the goal is to make a tasty beverage that is easy to consume in bars, clubs, sporting events or on the golf course, this format could work.

I wonder, though, if this is not the beginning of a new trend, and if in time, better and better wines will be available in cans. With wines being available on tap in a bunch of places and boxed wines not being as stigmatized as they once were, perhaps these folks are onto something? Time will tell. Twenty years ago, screw caps were a big no-no, so never say never.

Pamela S. Busch is the owner of Skrewcap.com, founder of CAV Wine Bar and a Bay Area wine consultant. Please submit your questions to Pamela@Skrewcap.com.

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