You know the drill—no glass at the pool.
Sure the rule makes perfect sense, but it presents challenges for those of us who prefer grape- to hop-based beverages while splashing the day away in the sun. Not to mention the many other occasions that come about during summer when single-serve beverages are just more convenient than big, glass bottles of wine. Sure you CAN pack a glass bottle and stemware on your trip to the beach or camping getaway, but throwing a can or tetrapak in the cooler saves space, weight, and if you drop it you won’t have to spend hours removing shards of glass from who knows where.
Until recently, investing in single-serving wine meant sacrificing on quality, but as millennials have embraced wine consumption and smaller vendors have sought out eco-friendly packaging, many new portable wine options have emerged. Ever the loyal servant of my readers, I tasted over 20 different can wines and tetrapak wines to find the best non-glass wines for your summer drinking pleasure.
General Tips on Choosing Single-Serve Wines
After swilling a host of wines in cans and tetrapaks, I did pick up some over-arching findings. These tips might be helpful if you’re faced with a selection of portable wines you haven’t seen before and are uncertain which to choose.
- When shopping white canned wines, overall chardonnays were the most pleasing. They were flavorful and well balanced without being overpowering and are what I would choose if I had to select without tasting.
- However, when tasting tetrapaks, I found pinot grigios to be the most consistent. While some labels certainly stood out, almost every variety had a serviceable balance of fruit and minerality, making this my go-to for unknown tetrapak situations.
- If you’re looking for the best deal, make sure you double check how much wine your container holds. Some narrow cans pack in more wine than you think. Similarly, check to see if wine cans are sold in four- or six-packs as opposed to stand-alone. Sometimes multi-packs bring the cost per can down a bit.
- Roses were fairly consistently pleasing, both in cans and tetrapaks, although cans scored a bit higher. I was worried I’d end up with varieties that were too sweet or overpowering, but the range went from pleasantly mild to nicely fruit-forward, but dry and balanced.
- Although the average person does not think of drinking red wine chilled, you probably want to throw single-serving red wines into the cooler. Many portable red wines are in fact made to be served slightly chilled. In addition, on a hot day, your red wine will quickly rise above the approximate 62-68 degrees where it should be enjoyed, so starting with it on the cooler side will prolong the time period before it turns to warm grape juice (eew).
- Lastly, manage your expectations. These wines were designed for enjoying in warm weather and social situations. You’re probably not going to find too many options with layers upon layers of complexity, but if you are open to some fun flavors for enjoying in good company, you’re in for some great surprises.
And without further ado, the best portable wines to keep you juiced all summer long.
The Best Bubbly in a Can: Scarpetta Frico Frizzante, available at Ellwood Thompson’s, Barrel Thief and Whole Foods ($4 each or four for $15)
This blend of Trebbiano, Glera, and Chardonnay stood out as the driest of the white sparklings I tasted, which is what I prefer when sipping my wine poolside. I got a ton of refreshing apple on the palate alongside some green grape and white flowers. Dry doesn’t mean not fruity, just light and effervescent.
Runner up: Presto Sparkling Cuvee, available at Whole Foods ($13 for 4 cans or $4 each)
If you prefer sweet wines: Sofia Mini Blanc de Blancs blend, available at Target ($20 for 4 cans)
Or, as my friend Alex who helped me taste put it, “The Sophia tastes like 9 a.m. The Frico tastes like 2 p.m.”
The Best Portable Pinot Grigio: Target Pinot Grigio Wine Cube, 500 ml TetraPak (about $5)
Medium-bodied with a hint of minerality, it was the fruity pear and cantaloupe notes that made this wine stand up above the rest for me.
Runner up: Bota Box 500 ML Pinot Grigio TetraPak, available at Kroger and other grocery stores ($4)
The Best Portable Chardonnay You Might Never Find Anyway: Field Recordings Fiction 2015 White Wine Chardonnay, ($10)
I think I grabbed the last available can of this blend at Libbie Market, then my boyfriend who, you know works in the wine industry, informed me that it’s probably from last season. I don’t care if it’s a season old, it was fantastically delicious—California chardonnay with a bit of Pinot Gris, Chenin Blanc and Verdelho exhibited a mixture of vanilla, pine, a little bit of butter (but not by any means heavy or overpowering), bright and baked lemons, and even a hint of lemon chess pie. I haven’t seen a 2016 Fiction White Wine Chardonnay yet, but you can bet if I do I’ll be buying it.
Runner Up Portable Chardonnay That You Will Actually Be Able to Find: West Side Wine Co. Chardonnay, available at Whole Foods ($5)
This 100% chardonnay can had a tiny bit of effervescence and was very light and dry with flavors of apples, pineapple and mango.
Honorable mention: 2015 Alloy Wine Works Central Coast Chardonnay, available at Whole Foods ($11)
Best White Wine for Chugging by the Beach: Underwood Pinot Blanc, ask your local wine store to order it, I got mine at Trio in the Outer Banks, ($9)
Union Wine Company was the first winery to popularize canned wine with the Underwood label and all of their varieties are quality. The Pinot Blanc is crisp, light, and very easy to drink with overwhelming grapefruit and pear flavors. Put it at the bottom of the cooler so it gets nice and cold, then watch it disappear as you bake in the sun.
Runner up: The Infinite Monkey Theorem White Wine, available at Whole Foods ($19 for 4 cans)
Best Sparkling Rose: Presto Sparkling Rose available at Whole Foods ($13 for 4 cans or $4 each)
Seriously, I could drink this stuff all day every day with an IV except then I wouldn’t be able to fully taste the amazing berry goodness. Ripe strawberries, nectarines, ruby red grapefruit, ripe and bittersweet raspberries all combine into a light, dry finish that keeps you coming back for more.
Best Portable Flat Rose:
If you like your rose dry and tangy: Underwood Rose Can, ask your local wine store to order it, I got mine at Trio in the Outer Banks, ($9)
Juicy and bone dry with a tangy, acidic finish, the Underwood rose has notes of strawberry and peach. When cold it’s light and refreshing—the flavors become juicier as it warms up.
If you like your rose on the fruity side: 2016 Alloy Everyday Rose, available at Branch & Vine ($10)
This was another one with a tiny hint of effervescence, which I always find pleasant in a can wine. Flavors included strawberry, tart raspberries, yellow peach, guava and yellow peaches.
Best Full-Bodied Can Red: Field Recordings 2014 Fiction Red Wine, Available at Libbie Market and Whole Foods, ($10)
This California red blend contains a blend of Paso Robles grapes—the 2013 blend includes Zinfandel, Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, and a little Viognier. I found it to be surprisingly bold and full-bodied compared to the other canned wines I sampled with rich flavors of blackberry and raspberry, leather, licorice, tobacco, and cigar box.
Best Value Red Wine: Monte Bernardi 2014 Toscano Rosso Sangiovese TetraPak Liter, available at Libbie Market ($14)
This wine stands out for its pleasant balance. Heavy ripe cherry and dried raspberry and blackberry scents and flavors give way to a nice, acidic balance and a long, dry, tannic finish with bits of dried leaves and tart plum. This classic Sangiovese is satisfying alone, but also would pair nicely with picnic cheeses and meats or even a takeout pizza by the pool. Did I mention the one liter tetra pak is actually larger than a bottle of wine, making it quite a bargain at under $15?
Best Red Wine for Chugging: Underwood Pinot Noir , ask your local wine store to order it, I got mine at Trio in the Outer Banks, ($9)
The Underwood Pinot Noir stood out because of its pure lightness. Bright red cherry and raspberry flavors were pleasing on the palate, fun to drink, and perfect for anyone who wants to swill something crimson on a sunny summer day without being buried in tannins or complexity. Give it a light chill or pair with fruit pie (it went exceptionally well with the Perly’s fig-flavored Hamtentashen cookie I happened to sample with mine).
If you like sweet wine: We Are California Red Blend, available at Total Wine ($3)
Sweet cherries and plums dominate this off dry red blend. It was a tad too sweet for me—I think I’d mix it with liquor and fruit for a single serve sangria—but if you like wines on the sweeter side, you’ll love this one