Hunker Down Series No. 8: Break out with fruity, delicious, carefree and chilled canned wines

So what’s in your beach bag?

So what canned wine is in your beach cooler?

It’s a timely question now that states are relaxing COVID-19 beach bans and allowing residents to head back to the sandy shores – albeit with social distancing protocols in place.

In recent years, sales of canned wines have increased dramatically, and the coronavirus crisis has done little to dampen consumers’ thirst for this beverage platform.

A lot has to do with convenience; a can is easily opened (flip tops), disposable, recyclable and unbreakable (when compared to glass bottles). Plus, canned wines are sold in different sizes and packaging, making them easy to pack into carrying bags and coolers. They even fit nicely into a women’s purse.

Another important factor is price. Two packs of 250-mililiter-sized cans (8.45 ounces in each can) start as low as $4.99; four packs go for $14.99 and up.

Another popular size is the 350 milliliter can (11.8 ounces) which contains 46 percent of the wine in a regular-sized 750-milliliter bottle (25.3 ounces). That’s roughly two glasses of wine in a can.

Ultimately, quality is what separates one canned wine from another.

The early knock on canned wines was the possible negative impact of the aluminum container on the alcohol’s taste and longevity. However, new technology is responsible for manufacturing seamless, air-tight cans with a unique – and invisible – interior lining that prevents interaction between the wine and the casing. The juice is as fresh, aromatic, and true as if it were kept in a bottle.

I admit I am a recent convert to canned wines. As I reported in a column written approximately one year ago today, it took my very intelligent daughter Jalyn to show me the benefits of drinking a chilled can outdoors in the pergola without the worry of dropping it and creating total chaos. The worse that can happen, she said, is the wine spills over the nice granite stones. But what would happen, she said, if I had dropped a glass or a bottle? Pandemonium. Shards of glass. Cleanup. Party time interrupted.

Since then, I’ve kept a couple of 4 packs around for sipping. Here are several worth considering.

Bonterra Vineyards of Sonoma County is an industry leader in biodynamic farming and makes three different canned wines from California certified organic grapes. That’s a plus for eco-minded drinkers. Each individual 4-pack of Sauvignon Blanc, Rose`, and Young Red blend sells for $17.99 and comes in a nifty, easy-to-handle cardboard package. Each can contains 250 ml. of wine.

Bonterra’s Sauvignon Blanc (13.3% by volume) uses grapes from vineyards in Mendocino, Sonoma and Lake counties. Winemaker Jeff Cichocki aims for a New World style emphasizing intense aromas and flavors. This is a loquacious wine for sure, as it speaks to lovely citrus and grassy notes on the nose that mix effortlessly with mouthwatering grapefruit and lime on the palate. It’s so refreshing and dry, it’s difficult to restrain the urge for a second pick-me-upper.

Bonterra’s canned Rose` (13% alcohol) is delightfully dry (only 0.375 grams of residual sugar per can), smooth, and fruity. Organic grapes are sourced from Mendocino. The taste is light, clean and uplifting, delivering a chilled medley of strawberry, watermelon, peaches and nectarine flavors. I drank this from both the can and later from a coupe glass where there was no discernible difference. However, I must admit that the wine’s color – pale pink and orange – was pretty in the glass.

Bonterra’s Young Red (13.4% alcohol) in cans is the same organic wine from Mendocino County that fills Bonterra’s 750 ml. bottle ($12) bearing the same name. The canned wine is served slightly chilled. It’s fresh, fruit-forward, smooth, and dry (0.02 grams of sugar per 100 ml). Cichocki builds rich red-berry flavor through barrel fermentation and then preserves it by racking and aging the wine in stainless steel.

Bonterra Vineyards is giving a 15 percent discount on all first-time orders placed through its website (

Sterling Vineyards of Napa Valley, which is owned by Treasury Wine Estates of Australia, began selling half bottle-sized aluminum cans (375 ml) of chardonnay, rose` and cabernet sauvignon in 2019. Each can is listed at $8 – or about half the cost of a regular 750 ml Sterling bottle of wine. SV has a reputation for producing quality wines at various price points, and the canned versions are no exception. The canned wines share the same juice found in Sterling’s Vintner Collection bottles which sell for under $20. Harry Hansen, Sterling’s director of winemaking since 2011, oversees the entire process.

Sterling’s cylindrically shaped cans are sleekly designed with a brushed silver exterior casing. The color of the screw cap denotes the wine: yellow for chardonnay; pink for rose`, red for cabernet. Each aluminum cylinder fits easily into a small cooler or bag and comfortable to hold in one’s hand.  Overall, the feel is chill friendly. (I also found Sterling cans to be easy to refill and cap, making them great for return trips to the beach, tailgate parties, or sipping by the pool. Of course, Sterling brand wines are preferred.)

While all the canned wines sampled exhibited freshness, I was particularly fond of the chilled chardonnay and rose`. They were vibrant, energetic and tailored for carefree patio sipping and swimming pool sunbathing. As for the cabernet sauvignon, I had no qualms with its savory taste, just that it’s best enjoyed when accompanied by grilled meats.

According to Treasury Wine, sales of Sterling cans continue to increase in the U.S. although supplies remain limited. I saw a bunch in the canned wine section at the New Hampshire State Wine & Liquor Outlet in Nashua, so that’s a good place to get started.