Does Beer or Wine in a Can Actually Taste Different?
For most of us, packaging is not something we think of in our daily lives. However, aluminum bottles and cans of wine are starting to shake up a conversation about how the vehicle for a beverage might affect its flavor. That being said, a 2018 survey found that 59% of people had never tried or heard of wine in a can. Cans of beer are not a new phenomenon, but how they compare to bottles or draft beers is hotly debated.
So why are several producers starting to choose aluminum over glass? Well, there are a few reasons. First and foremost, it's cheaper for the producers. It is also more durable for distributing and for the customers enjoying it. Lastly, it's easily recyclable. Glass is also recyclable, but is more likely to break, which can be dangerous for consumers and for those collecting recyclables. But glass is far from being a thing of the past, and we have probably all heard our craft brew aficionado friends claim that a can tastes worse than a bottle or draft. But does it? We dove into the research to look for evidence to support or contradict this sentiment.
As their popularity continues to soar, a group called WIC Research specifically looks at market trends and research around "wine in cans". They conducted a blind taste test on 86 individuals to see if there was a significant difference in people who preferred canned or bottled wine. They used identical wines from the same wineries that had been canned and bottled, then poured them into a cup for the taste test. After trying four different wines, 48.5% preferred the bottled wines, 45.3% preferred canned and 5.8% had no preference. In short, the difference between the two was not significant enough for the majority of people to prefer one over the other.
Another study in the journal Beverages set out to see people's preferences in a questionnaire about cans versus bottles of beer, as well as what they preferred in a blind taste test. Over 61% of participants stated that they preferred bottled beer in the questionnaire, compared to only 11% who preferred canned (the remaining 27% thought they tasted the same). However, in the blind taste test, 45% rated the canned beer better, 41% rated the bottled better and 1.5% said they tasted the same. Yet again, the researchers concluded there was no significant difference between the taste of the bottled versus canned drinks.
So, in short, the research supports that canned and bottled beer and wine probably tastes about the same. However, a can might keep your drink tasting fresh for longer and its tighter seal (versus a cork or bottle cap) could keep oxygen and light from spoiling your drink. (P.S.- This is also why you should always buy foods like olive oil in tinted or opaque containers.)
The popular company Wine Folly also conducted their own taste test and concluded that canned wine does not taste metallic or tinny compared to bottled wine. They did note that there was some residual sugar left in the wines they tried and the canned wines had a higher acidity than the bottled wines. But, to the untrained palate, they would taste basically the same. The did add that these differences may have to do with higher-brow producers less likely to experiment with their wine packaging.
To answer the highly controversial question: No, wines or beers in a can do not taste significantly different than those in a bottle. In fact, there are several situations (like camping, beaching or hiking) where it makes sense to opt for something canned instead of a bottle. However, from a taste perspective, it probably won't make a huge difference. So stick to wines and brews you like and don't stress the packaging. Either way, be sure to recycle when you are done!