Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2018: Day 20

20 12 2018

By Peter Vetsch

From the very first day I bought this year’s Bricks Half-Bottle Advent Calendar, it was eminently clear that one of these neatly wrapped things was not like the others.  This is that thing:

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Why settle for a half-bottle when you can have a full can?  Although alternative wine packaging has developed quite the stigma over the years (whether cans, or bag-in-box, or tetra-packs, or anything other than tall glass bottles), and although it has often been relegated to the purview of forgettable plonk, a few forward-thinking and quality-minded producers are slowly starting to try to take it back.  As a huge proponent of wines in novel containers, I think wines in cans are utterly brilliant.  Cans offer a number of advantages over bottles:

  1. Aluminum is much, much lighter than glass, which saves on shipping costs (often charged by weight), takes less energy to transport and at least theoretically should reduce the shelf price of the product accordingly.
  2. Cans are fully opaque and do not let any damaging UV light through to the wine (which can cause chemical reactions and form sulphurous compounds within the wine that are notably unpleasant).  Glass, on the other hand, especially CLEAR glass…
  3. A sealed can allows no oxygen penetration into the wine and thus acts as a foolproof preservative.  There’s a reason why all your bomb shelter food is canned.
  4. No corks mean no risk of cork taint and closure-based wine spoilage.  Away, TCA!
  5. Cans are easily portable and allow for casual (and, as needed, discreet) enjoyment wherever you happen to be.

The increase of halfway-decent wines in cans is one of the best vinous developments of the decade, and the inclusion of this one in the calendar is at least partially indicative of the growing popular acceptance of the can as a wine-holding medium.  Not a moment too soon.

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The particular wine in this can is the 2016 Ferdinand Wines Albarino (which, interestingly enough, also comes in bottle, if you ever wanted to run a taste test).  Ferdinand was started by young winemaker Evan Frazier, with help from some California wine royalty — the Kongsgaard family.  Frazier’s vision wasn’t in the Napa Chardonnays and Cabernets that made Kongsgaard a cult name, however:  his first harvest ever was worked in Maury, in the scorching deep south of France, right on the Spanish border, and consequently he primarily came into contact with Spanish varietals Grenache (Garnacha) and Carignan (Carinena).  He kept this vision of Spain in his mind for his own winery, turning his focus to what are arguably the country’s top-quality red and white grapes, Tempranillo and Albarino.  This perhaps explains him naming his venture after the famous red bull?  (I fervently hope this is the actual reason for the winery name.)

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Cork?? Rating:  0/10 (I don’t know what you want me to do with this.  It’s a can.  Move along.)

To find his grapes, Frazier ventured to Lodi, near Sacramento, to the vineyards of Spanish varietal specialist Markus Bokisch (whose own winery, Bokisch Vineyards, has some wines in our market as well).  Bokisch’s Vista Luna Vineyard is the source of this Albarino and lies in the Lodi sub-AVA of Borden Ranch, in the eastern part of the appellation and almost straight inland from San Francisco, known for its alluvial (ex-marine) soils and mostly red grapes — this is Zinfandel country, after all.  But Albarino can handle the sun without losing acidity too quickly.  Why the straight “California” designation on the label for this single-vineyard sub-AVA site-specialized planting?  No need to dumb this stuff down; it’s important.  After picking, this was fermented in neutral barrels and then left on its lees for 8 months, which is responsible for its slightly cloudy appearance.

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There is a very notable spritz on this Albarino as it comes out of the can, which dissipates over time but makes the wine seem nearly frizzante to start.  Prominent warm-rocks, sun-on-shale minerality swirls through and infiltrates the ginger, rock salt and cantaloupe aromas, all tinged with something fragrant and green (basil? fennel?).  The lees contact is front and centre on every sip, but particularly right out of the can, as things seem a little overly mealy and yeasty before they settle down and open up.  Gradually flavours of melon, grapefruit, frozen pineapple, kombucha, chalk and pedialyte (blame the lees for this last one) emerge and spread out, broadly coating the tongue.  The acid is sharp and incisive, but in pinprick fashion, a thousand simultaneous acupuncture holes, jolting you awake on a bed of nails; it is a strange combination with a texture that is powdery and dusty, like crushed Tums, equal parts mouth-drying and saliva-inducing.  This is real, thoughtful, intellectual, interesting wine, in a can.  Let it be the start of a wholesale reconsideration of how we package the best drink on Earth.  Yes we can.

89 points

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