I’m not really a wine snob. Well, maybe a little. After all, I love good wines - thoughtfully chosen to marry with just the right food pairings - preferably homegrown, local ingredients, amplifying the axiom “that if it grows together it goes together.”
A wine complements and enhances the taste and flavors -- so that the whole experience is a unique, memorable treat influenced by nature’s season and the terroir and the preparation. It’s all very sensual.
When admonished to “live in the moment,” there is perhaps no better example - except perhaps for jazz and its cool improvisation - than a good bottle of wine and its ever-variable syncopated taste rhythms.
Then there’s the tradition and history of good wine making. I’ve worked professionally in restaurants, as well as for high-end catering; I’ve attended wine classes, wine tastings. I write about wine. I frequent Napa and Sonoma and France and - you get the idea…. I respect the craft of creating great wines and those who know and study them and the fermentation process… Good wines have their own unique stories.
And then, sometimes, I think I need to just need to think out of the box. Two clicks out of the box.
In this case, wine in a can.
Of the two “un-bottles,” wine in a box was introduced to the market first - some 50+ years ago; and in the US since the 1980s when high hair and shoulder pads were considered "style."
But the fact is, the vessel shouldn’t matter. In the spirit of innovation and open-mindedness I agreed to taste-drive the three Backpack Wine wine blends: Cheeky RoseⓇ, Snappy WhiteⓇ, and Rowdy RedⓇ. Samples were sent and I finally got a chance to try out the cute, slimline 250ml can - or “can-ette” as I refer to them. The Backpacks are too cunning to be referred to as mere “cans.” They are of a size that men and women can both feel they are drinking a wine with character and style.
The Backpack can-ettes are of course quite practical and the raison d’etre for the brand, really. They are convenient, safe, portable, individual drinking vessels. Wine was meant to be handheld and this form-factor is easy for enjoying the wine in public spaces, including parks, beaches, pools, picnics, boating, skiing, concerts and more. Times Square on New Year’s Eve? Yes. Block parties to help ring in the new year? The progressive neighborhood potluck dinner? Of course.
There are four of the can-ettes to a package - which is a tidy, brick-like block.
Each sells for a suggested $15.99 to $19.99 and are available at most liquor stores or available online at the Backpack website. Cases are offered too.
According to Backpack Wine, the wines are 11.5 percent alcohol by volume, and are made with grapes from the Wahluke Slope in Washington state, from some of the finest Washington State vineyards. I asked about the fermentation process but haven’t gotten that information as of this posting. I’ll update when I do receive. I wanted to know the wine making process -- oak barrels or stainless steel? Or ?
I tried the Rowdy Red first -- two cans. The taste was pretty rich - with a smooth feel. The company describes it as: “a tasty blend of Washington State Merlot and Syrah that shows dark cherry on the nose. It drinks velvety smooth showing black cherry, plum and a touch of spice.” I can (!) surely see Rowdy Red on a picnic styled meal with cheeses, sandwiches, meats, and breads. It’s a robust, full-flavored wine that was a nice surprise.
The Snappy White had an issue. The two cans I opened were blooming with a not-so snappy olfactory sensation. My nose said “hazard.” There existed a distinct aluminum smell -- like that ammonia fragrance in a hair salon or bad eggs. This, of course, affected my perception of the taste. I made myself get past it to taste the wine and it was fine. But even pouring the wine into a glass the olfactory power remained. I read that cans are supposed to be lined to prevent that hair salon smell. It seems these two cans were not lined properly. The company says the Snappy White is, “a Washington State Riesling based blend has a touch of sweetness and weight that finishes with refreshing acidity. This balanced white delivers notes of green apple and Asian pear, making it perfect for cocktail hour or with spicy summer dishes.” I cannot corroborate that…
Alternatively, I found the Cheeky Rose a fresh, bright and refreshing. It was a tad fruity yet light and smooth. I was experiencing a sensation of crisp raspberries. The company notes the Cheeky Rose is “a Washington State Pinot Blanc and Sangiovese Rose blend is a drier expression, with a touch of peach, strawberry and rose petal; a clean crisp blush wine, it’s a bright treat with an open grill in the summer or rich foods in the winter.” I can see Cheeky Rose with a fruit platter at the beach or pool, or with dried apricots and cheeses or with bruschetta or pizzas.
The only odd or funny thing you’ll discover about the Backpack wine in a can is that they don’t fit in your wine rack!