How does Wine Spectator review canned wines in blind tastings?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

How do you review canned wines in blind tastings? Won’t the reviewer be able to tell they are tasting a canned wine?

—Bobby, Louisville, Ky.

Dear Bobby,

Good question. We were first confronted with how to impartially review alternative packaging when we started reviewing boxed wines and Tetra Paks about 15 years ago, and now, with sales of wine in cans booming, we’re reviewing more of those than ever before. Our goal is to review these wines in blind tastings among their peers: the same varietals, vintages and appellations, regardless of packaging.

Obviously, we can’t keep alternative-packaged wines in their original packaging. There are two ways we conceal a wine’s identity. First, the wine may be transferred into a sterile bottle and then bagged and hidden among the rest of the bagged bottles. Second, a blind-tasting flight might include some wines in miniature decanters. “Oh!” you might be thinking. “Won’t the taster know that if they come across one of those that the wine they are tasting is from a different package?”

Actually, no. Our tasting coordinators are clever wine lovers who are dedicated to the blind-tasting process. If a taster comes across a wine in one of those little glass containers, it might be from a can, but it might also be from a box, a Tetra Pak, an irregularly shaped bottle (like a magnum, something really heavy, or just uniquely shaped) or it might come from a standard 750ml bottle of wine—there’s no sense in trying to guess what the coordinators have up their sleeve, except to make sure the blind tastings are as fair as possible for all wines, regardless of price, winemaker and packaging.

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny Blind Tasting Cans Packaging

More In Dr. Vinny

Why are beers aged in wine barrels? And what's a "foeder"?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why large, used wine barrels, or "foudres," have …

Sep 16, 2020

Can I recycle wine bottles that have metal or plastic capsules on the top? Is it true that some capsules contain lead?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers tips for recycling wine bottles and handling older …

Sep 14, 2020

Half of a broken cork ended up in my wine bottle. Is that OK?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers advice for what to do when a cork breaks.

Sep 11, 2020

Are all wine barrels toasted?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why oak barrel staves are toasted.

Sep 9, 2020

Why is “smoke taint” a problem? Don’t they clean the grapes?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how smoke taint works, why it can't be "washed …

Sep 7, 2020

How do I know if a wine will be good before I buy it?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers tips for finding the wines you'll love.

Sep 4, 2020