Castoro de Oro: Canned Heat Edition

5 07 2020

By Peter Vetsch

[These wines were provided as samples for review purposes.]

I have been on record for a while firmly in support of wines in cans.  While these aluminum-encased wonders will likely only ever play the role of sidekicks to the glass bottle in the world of wine packaging, they absolutely have their time and place:  specifically, whenever you need your wine to be portable and unbreakable, whenever you know that a full bottle won’t be needed, whenever you’re in a place where you need your wine’s container to be its own glassware, and whenever you want to stand outside and sip on a cold one that’s better than beer.  Cans are transportable, stackable, packable, TCA-proof and fully sealed from damaging oxygen, and once the wine is in the glass, you’d never know that a container bred after the Industrial Revolution was involved.  I’m all for the romance of wine, but I’m also for not wasting money on preventably damaged goods.  Cans are not a fad.  Bring them on.

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And Castoro de Oro has.  The Golden Beaver of British Columbia’s Golden Mile is the first southern Okanagan winery to bring out a line of canned wines, selected from the white, red and pink sides of their portfolio and line-priced at $8.99 across the board for the British Columbia and Alberta markets.  Each can is 250 mL, equivalent to a third of a bottle (or a can of Red Bull, for anyone who has ever had to work late, has had a baby, or just likes being jittery), and the wine inside is 100% estate fruit, the same as what the winery bottles in its standard glass packaging.  Quality, meet portability.

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[The lawyer in me has to intervene here for a second.  Often progress does not move as quickly as formal legal recognition, and this is one of those times.  British Columbia’s Wines of Marked Quality Regulation under the province’s Food and Agricultural Products Classification Act does not — yet? — allow for VQA wines, those of the highest recognized legal quality distinction in the province, to be bottled in cans.  Section 49(2) of the Regulation specifies that wines must be bottled in glass bottles; section 49(3) requires them to be sealed by real or fake corks or by screwcap.  Legislating quality practices is critically important, but it only works if you focus on what assures quality and don’t unnecessarily impede what doesn’t.  I predict an amendment to the Regulation is coming, but probably not until after the VQA emblem is regularly eschewed in favour of this wine delivery mechanism that consumers demand and that provides convenience without forgetting its primary purpose:  to respect and protect the wine inside.  Get on it, BC government.]

Those interested in further details about this peppy, approachable winery focused on delivering value and non-wallet-crushing wines should check out Ray’s excellent introduction to Castoro de Oro from last year.  Those interested in crushing some cans, read on.

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Pull Tab Rating:  1/10 (Not sure what I’m supposed to do with this. Colour tabs to come?)

Castoro de Oro Heart of Gold (~$9)

The white end of the Castoro canned lineup is immediately noticeable for its blend composition:  it is a mix of Pinot Blanc, Vidal, Viognier and…Siegfried, a hybrid grape so rare and unexplored that it doesn’t even make it in to Jancis Robinson’s mammoth tome Wine Grapes, which is 1,280 pages long and covers 1,368 different grapes!!  Siegfried is one of the legions of German-bred crossings of Riesling with a hardier, winter-surviving non-vinifera variety in a Wile E. Coyote-esque continually futile attempt to meld together everything good about each.  The lucky Riesling counterparty in this case was Oberlin 595 S.P, itself a hybrid of Gamay and a vitis riparia grape (and one of the parents of Marechal Foch!).  Siegfried, otherwise catchily known in the lab as F.S 4-201-3, is therefore 3/4 vinifera, and in satisfaction of its genetic raison d’être, it ripens earlier than Riesling, but it is found almost nowhere other than Germany and small pockets of BC.  Like here.

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Every wine should have a “good with these activities” legend.

The Siegfried-boosted Heart of Gold hits the glass a pale, spritzy lemon colour, immediately throwing emphatic banana Runts, aloe/spearmint, Thrills gum and musky melon aromas backed by traces of strawberry leaf, shredded coconut, pineapple husk and potpourri.  It is part pina colada and part luxury hand soap, combining strangely on the palate to somehow be slightly bitter, slightly grippy, fairly mellow and eminently drinkable all at once.  Barely medium bodied, and with very low acid, it is not overly energetic but also not languid or sloppy, mixing Welch’s white grape juice, kiwi and yellow apple fruit with parmesan cheese rind, a green herbal twang (cilantro? terragon?) and an echoing sweetness (likely what the “cotton candy” reference is on the back label, but I would have gone for “pink marshmallow” instead).  It is wacky and unique enough to intrigue, but also approachable enough not to scare anyone away.  It certainly kept me coming back to the can.

87- points

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Castoro de Oro Pinot Duetto Rosé (~$9)

I have to ask:  why are there no vintage years listed on these cans?  I believe that each canned wine is the mirror of its corresponding bottled release, each of which is vintage-dated, but there’s no mention of harvest year on the cans.  VQA labelling laws require the use of a vintage year on any bottle of still table wine (section 54(6) of the Wines of Marked Quality Regulation, if you’re keeping score at home)…but, as you’ll remember above, they also require the bottle, so maybe all bets are off once you ditch the VQA in favour of cans.  I suppose the omission of the vintage provides some commercial protection and ease of packaging by not differentiating between this year’s and last year’s offerings, but I would rather know the year of what I’m drinking.  The Pinot Duetto Rosé sort of describes itself:  it’s a pink wine that is a duet of two Pinot mutations, Noir and Blanc, one red wine and one white wine.  The percentage of each in the blend, or how they are combined to create the resulting rosé, is not disclosed, but if the bold colour of the wine is any indication, there was likely either limited quantities of Pinot Blanc or some kind of co-fermentation involved.

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Almost complete “good with” overlap with the Heart of Gold, just swapping “hiking” for “walks” (which are sort of the same thing).  More activities needed – wine is good with everything.

The aforementioned Duetto hue is a deep penetrating orange/coral, reflective of a wine that is extroverted and unafraid.  Castoro de Oro sells it as a rosé for a red wine drinker, and the powerful strawberry and blood orange aromatics give that pitch credence, although these are balanced by more true-to-pink notes of rhubarb jam, saltwater, grass and copper cups.  It is unsurprisingly fleshy on the tongue, featuring a pleasant heft boosted by a touch of sugar left in for the ride, but also a welcoming rush of fresh, sharp acidity.  Redcurrant, Mr. Sketch pink marker, peach, steel and a burst of lemon-lime lead into another somewhat bitter-tinged finish, but it is a welcome contrast in this case, leaving the mouth lying in wait for the next rush of flavour.

87 points

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Castoro de Oro Merlot (~$9)

I would be remiss not to note that Ray has previously reviewed all of these wines in bottle form — you can find his thoughts here for the white and here for the pink and this red.  I intentionally avoided his assessments while working my way through these cans, and was happy to discover after the fact that we lined up almost precisely on all of the wines…except this one.  The same wine can show differently on different days for different people, and wine reviews have an inherently subjective aspect to them, no matter how hard we strive for objective-based evaluation.  I think it’s good to see multiple takes on the same wine, and leaves you as the reader at the end of it in a stronger rather than a weaker position to judge for yourself.  So check out both write-ups, track down some Golden Beaver cans, and let us know what you think.

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Sports??  Maybe don’t drink this Merlot while playing football.  “BBQ” has borrowed the “picnics” icon; seems to suit it better.  All cans are good with music and reading.

I should start by noting that this Merlot costs about a third more in bottle than the Heart of Gold does ($28 vs. $19 cellar door), but is equally priced at a penny under $9 in can.  You would normally expect to pay a bit of a premium for a smaller-format wine — half-bottles cost more than half of a full bottle — but here you can get three cans of Merlot for LESS than the cost of a bottle.  Seek value where you can get it.  The Merlot is a semi-opaque ruby-purple, dark as pitch at the core but thinning noticeably at the rim.  It is confectionary, leathery and spruce-y all at once, an olfactory maelstrom of raspberry marshmallows, maraschino cherry, date, catcher’s mitt, Christmas wreaths and tree sap, although these aromas all keep some measure of distance from each other, performing in isolation like the rest of us these days.

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The Merlot-in-can makes a juicy and delicious first impression, potentially aided by a dash of residual sugar, but a streak of pervasive bitterness lingers on the midpalate, unspooling the wine slightly and revealing prominent papery tannin.  The flavours flicker in and out after the attack, Glosette Raisins and sweet plum, pot roast and pan char, red pepper and sandpaper, revealing the outline of something without fully colouring it in.  A quick sip out of a slightly chilled can will not steer you wrong, but I found the wine to get a little skittish under scrutiny.  All of these wines will happily serve their $9 purpose, but when it came time for additional pours, I reached for the white and pink cans first.

86+ points


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