For a long time, canned wine has been seen as something to scoff at. Convenient, sure, but more often than not a saccharine swill of undisclosed origin, only ever to be drunk in moments of desperation, like festivals or from dodgy airport kiosks.
Fast-forward two years and – thanks to the work of genre-defying winemakers – canned wine has moved from fad to a bona fide beverage category. The UK’s canned wine market is now worth more than £3.6m, having increased more than 125 per cent in the year to August 2019.
Testament to their millennial-minded branding, market leaders like Babe and Hun are reaching an entirely different demographic from traditional winemakers. And, for consumers to whom the old-school wine world seems exclusive and stuffy, cans are a more accessible way to discover what you like – and what you don’t.
The pros of canned wine are clear: portability is a huge draw, plus, with a summer spent picnicking in the park on the horizon, cans offer a safer alternative to glass, which is often prohibited in public spaces.
The environmental benefits of cans over their bottled competitors should be considered, too. Not only are cans almost infinitely recyclable but they also weigh less to transport, which cuts down on carbon emissions and reduces their overall carbon footprint.
Single-serve cans can also help to combat wine wastage. According to wine seller Laithwaites, the average British household throws away around two glasses of wine a week on average – the yearly equivalent of 17.3 bottles per household or 624 million bottles nationally (which is enough to fill 333 Olympic-size swimming pools – heaven forbid).
A 25cl can is ideal on evenings you fancy a glass, but can’t justify opening a whole bottle. And when wine aisles are becoming increasingly intimidating places to navigate, a £4 can presents less of a financial risk than a £14 bottle, which you then find isn’t to your taste.
While the canning process presents many difficulties for winemakers across the globe, it is also argued that young wines can be kept fresher by preventing unwanted oxidation. Plus you’ll never have to worry about it getting corked or overexposed to sunlight. Win, win.
Convinced to crack a can? Here are our favourite tipples to sip this season.
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The Uncommon (x4 cans)
Back in 2018, The Uncommon was the first winemaker to launch an English sparkling wine in a can – and it’s been breaking tradition for the better ever since. In the interest of full disclosure, we were initially drawn to the delightfully kitsch drawings on the cans. Each variant has been given a unique character; for example, Gerald is a lovable giraffe sporting a three-piece suit and bow tie.
Of course, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, so we’re happy to report that the soon-to-be released Gerald sparkling wine delivered in that regard too. The combination of Surrey-born bacchus and chardonnay grapes creates a dry white wine with a bright, refreshing acidity and light body, like nothing else we tasted.
We also loved the lighter spritz which, rather than pairing with the same-old soda, is combined with thoughtful botanicals such as cucumber extract, rosemary and lemon verbena, making them unique drinks suitable for extra-special settings (or for sipping on the sofa).
If our first tasting is anything to go by, we see Gerald and his motley crew becoming close companions this picnic season.
Mirabeau pret-a- porter rosé (x1 can)
Mirabeau is well known in the wine world for producing high-quality Provence rosés, but could its canned option match the bottles that made its name? We’re happy to report that the pret-a-porter rosé is no exception; traditionally dry in style, with a full nose of ripe cherry, peach and white pepper and a pronounced acidity, thanks to the richer syrah grapes in the blend.
We paired it with a spicy Thai salad and it held its own, though it would be equally good with light seafood dishes and summery desserts such as pavlova or lemon tart. The cans are sleek and streamlined, meaning they are fast to chill and – perhaps more importantly – keep their temperature if you’re heading out on al frescoadventures.
Sipful (x4 cans)
Sipful is the brainchild of husband-and-wife duo Darius and Emily Darwell, who, having spent many a day hiking, camping and wild swimming in the Lake District found the market for rucksack-ready beverages lacking.
“We were looking for something using natural ingredients, while avoiding plastic and glass, and the options were few and far between” says Darius.
So the couple set out to create their own, blending organic airén white wine and fruit to form a range that currently includes organic bubbles, a blood orange mimosa and a bellini. We typically steer clear of bellinis, having found that the peach purée can often overpower the subtleties of the sparkling wine, but Sipful’s offering was full of fresh, ripe peach (the type, perhaps, you find in sun-dappled Spanish markets rather than British supermarkets). The blood orange mimosa followed suit with loads of citrussy tang. If you’ve lost your brunching mojo in lockdown, this is the thing to bring it back.
Nania’s Vineyard (x6 cans)
This is the first vintage from Bristol-born urban winery, Nania’s Vineyard, and what an impressive debut into the canned wine market. Made using English rondo grapes – which are particularly well suited to cooler climates – its spritz-style wine combines a bright, berry-laden rosé with raspberry shrub from the Bristol Syrup Company and a touch of sparkling spring water drawn from the spring beneath Glastonbury Tor.
At a lower ABV of 5.5 per cent, this is the perfect solution for long, drawn-out days in the park, and – thanks to the addition of the raspberry shrub – a refreshing, natural alternative to canned cocktail alternatives.
Hun wines (x1 can)
Founded in 2020 by a group of east London entrepreneurs, Hun set out to “create a brand that celebrates everything that is great about millennial values… embracing diversity, engaging with climate change and championing self-expression and community”.
Beyond the slightly catch-all mission statement, its range – which currently includes a sauvignon blanc, rosé and sparkling rosé from the Stellenbosch region of South Africa – has proven it’s more than just talk, becoming the only canned wine to receive three awards at the prestigious Gilbert et Gaillard Challenger 2020. After extensive testing, we couldn’t help but agree; the sauvignon blanc was a particular stand-out, with all the grassy, gooseberry notes you’d expect. Plus, at £2.50 per can, it was the most affordable option we sampled and, with proceeds from every case going towards supporting The Fairhills Fairtrade project, it does good, too.
Hush Heath Estate balfour pink fizz (x12 cans)
This is definitely one of the more premium options we tried, and the higher price tag of £5 per can reflects that. However, Balfour’s trophy-award winning brut rosé retails at £40 for 75cl, and, having sampled both, we can honestly say the quality and consistency of the bottle is more than matched in the 20cl can. This has been no mean feat, as its head winemaker, Fergus Elias, explains: “The process of canning wine is notoriously tricky…a lot of research went into the subject and the resulting methodology is unlike anything else used in English wine. It’s really trailblazing stuff.”
If you’re looking for an accessible introduction to English sparkling – without forking out on an entire bottle – then we see no better start than Balfour’s Pink Fizz.
Kiss of Wine (x6 cans)
In contrast to the slogan-heavy campaigns of other canned wine companies, the ethos behind Kiss of Wine is simple: “To create a product for the modern-day drinker who wants a good glass of wine without committing to a bottle,” says founder, Jennifer Browarcyzk. The collection of single-varietal cans, which includes a particularly good 2016 nebbiolo and a Rheingau riesling from 70-year-old vines, is sourced from some of Europe’s leading (and most long-standing) winemakers.
If it’s your first foray into canned wine (or any wine for that matter), then its subscription service may suit you. There are five options to choose from, meaning you cannot only tailor the quantity and frequency of their wine delivery, but also mix and match variants based on your preferred colour and style. We loved that each can came with a thorough information card, explaining the different tasting notes, what temperature to serve the wine, and recommended food pairings. After experiencing their “adventure package”, we felt like we’d learned a great deal about the differing styles and plan to order again for an evening tasting with friends when restrictions allow.
Babe (x1 can)
Yes, this isn’t for everyone and Babe will likely be cited by wine traditionalists as the argument against canned wine, but there’s more to this company than brash slogans and celebrities. The sparkling rosé does exactly what it sets out to, as an easy-drinking, take-anywhere wine, whether you’re poolside or in the park. It’s not for old-world enthusiasts but then it doesn’t plan to be either.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that this Insta-ready can was designed with social media in mind because, well…it was. Created in the Hamptons by Instagram personality, actor and business mogul Josh Ostrovsky, and with Emily Ratajowski as chief of taste, this is as far from old-school sommelier stuff as it gets. In fact, as Babe’s website boldly puts it: “People love wine, end of story. You don’t need to know about the vintage, variety, or heritage. ‘Wine for all’ is our mission.”
Copper Crew (x6 cans)
Copper Crew has a unique launch story. Split between the UK and South Africa, its three founders – Oli, Theo and Sam – came together virtually in July 2020 with the idea of creating a canned wine company and tthat they did, despite the ongoing travel restrictions meaning the founders have never actually met face-to-face. That hasn’t hindered their success though, and their range – which currently comprises a rosé, chenin blanc, and a merlot – has earned a whole host of awards, including a coveted ISCW Bronze.
After sampling all three, we found the merlot most quaffable. It’s a medium-bodied, fruit-forward red from Elgin, South Africa, which, having matured for 24 months to soften the tannins, rewards drinkers with a wine so complex you’d forget you’re drinking it from a can.
The Verdict: Canned wines
We loved everything The Uncommon offered; an adventurous spirit, sustainable values and, most importantly, great tasting wine. It’s a little pricier than other options we sampled but we felt the price reflected the quality of the can. Their mixed packs would make the perfect gift for friends and long-overdue celebrations this summer.
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