Bottle or Can wine tasting at The Wort Hotel

Scott n’ Pepper columnist Scott Eren samples a white wine during the “Can You Taste The Difference?” wine tasting Monday at The Wort Hotel, where participants had to guess whether each came from a bottle or a can.

The world of wine can seem like a stuffy place. Compared with beer it’s expensive and fussy. People who overindulgently enjoy wine are called snobs. But wine doesn’t have to be just a rich man’s game. Swooping in to save wine for the masses is a simple change in packaging.

Welcome to wine in a can.

If you pay attention to the new displays at wine or liquor stores surely you’ve noticed canned wine appearing on the shelves over the past couple of years. Local stores like Lucky’s Market, The Liquor Store of Jackson Hole and Jackson Whole Grocer and Cafe all now have displays or special sections of canned wines.

For some, wine in a can makes immediate sense. Active wine drinkers know that backpacking with a heavy glass bottle is no fun and that forgetting a corkscrew on a float can spell disaster. For these outdoorsy oenophiles the convenience and light weight of a can are enough to take the plunge.

For others the novelty of and cute packaging is enough to give canned wine a go.

Drinking sparkling rose from the bottle: skiddy, foamy, something a sledneck would do, not cute. Drinking sparkling rose from a can: chic, effervescent, something people at Picnic would do, so cute.

Others still appreciate being able to gesture wildly while holding wine, something that’s not conducive to drinking wine from a glass.

But active-life convenience and cutesy packaging still miss a big part of the wine experience, namely, the taste. Fortunately, The Wort Hotel saw fit to help folks explore how the taste of canned wine compares with the bottle on Monday, when the hotel hosted guests for a blind wine tasting. Canned-wine connoisseurs in the making were presented the exact same wine (the same varietals from the same wineries), and they had to guess which was the can and which was the bottle.

“We wanted to do a wine event that was fun and wasn’t too expensive, so doing an event around wine in a can seemed perfect,” said Sara Beth Judson, the Wort’s marketing manager.

The process was simple enough. Guests were given a glass and then allowed to wander from station to station testing the same wine from identical vessels. We were told about the wine, the grapes used to make it and where the grapes came from. I started with a chenin blanc from South Africa by Lubanzi.

Both samples tasted good, although one seemed more aromatic and expressive than the other. The same was true of the pinot gris samples from Oregon’s Underwood Winery. Both were good, but one felt clearly better. The trend continued for all wines offered, a South African red blend, Underwood’s pinot noir and a couple of roses. All the wines were drinkable, and good buys at their price points of $12 to $18 per bottle price point and $6 to $9 per can.

Having worked through the 12 wine samples, and going back for clarifying rounds of seconds for a couple of the wines, I now had to choose from my notes which wines I thought were cans. No wines had an obvious tell — none had any tinniness or metallic notes, and none tasted corked. I had noted which of each pair felt more lively, interesting and flavorful, so I decided that I would categorically mark the paired wine I liked more as the bottled variety.

The results were interesting. First of all, I won’t quit my day job to be a blind wine tester. I guessed the canned variety correctly for half of the wines, no better than if I had randomly guessed. One odd part, though, was that I guessed each white wine correctly, and each red and rose incorrectly. My personal moral: Choose white wine in a can wherever possible.

The general moral of the story, though, if it needed one, is that after some thorough investigating, wine in a can has pros for days and no noticeable cons. Go crack a cold one. 

Scott Eren writes about culinary trends and events. Contact him at columnists@jhnewsandguide.com

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