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Review: Backpack (Canned) Wine (2019)

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When I first reviewed Backpack Wine — a line of wines packaged in single-serve cans — my comments were, for the most part, not so positive. I recently heard from the company, and its response to that review was quite a surprise. I’ll paste a portion of it here:

The review was fairly negative and to be fair, it was an honest reflection of our first attempt at quality canned wine.

Canned wines are still a relatively new category and since I have been working in this category for the past five years, I can tell you there has been a steep learning curve. Early versions of quality canned wine like Backpack, were sometimes unstable and ended up reducing quickly. Both canned wine producers and the winemakers had to make small adjustments to quality control, acid levels, sulfur control and even varietal choices to make sure the canned wines tasted as delicious and fresh as our bottled wines.

I have been with Backpack now for over a year and we have made the changes mentioned above and more. We are very confident that we now produce some of the best tasting canned wine on the market.

I agreed to take a fresh look at Backpack’s products — which now includes four different varieties, all sold in four-packs — and offer updated perspectives. As with the 2018 offerings, all are still nonvintage wines with no varietal information included on the cans. That said, some information about what’s in the can is available on Backpack’s website, though while the company is based in Washington and the grapes are grown in the state, the wines are still packed in Modesto, California.

Thoughts follow.

NV Backpack Snappy White Wine (2019) – A white blend, heavy on riesling. A significant pear character plays off against bubble gum and a moderate pineapple note, which would all be fine if not for the ample Vienna Sausage aromas that are unavoidable on the nose. No fizz. (Last year’s white and rose wines were both somewhat fizzy.) Drink it very cold. D+

NV Backpack Cheeky Rose Wine (2019) – A rose of syrah. Like fruity rose? This is a fruit bomb to the extreme, loaded with notes of strawberry candy and orange-mango juice and informed by a spray of fresh flowers, giving it a very typical, summery construction. While uncomplicated to be sure, it’s a dramatic improvement over last year’s rendition (which I rated an F). Flat. B-

NV Backpack Bubbly Rose Wine (2019) – This is the new addition to the group, another rose of syrah but moderate to heavy carbonation added. It’s a much sweeter wine than the Cheeky offering, also, and while it features some of the same fruit and floral notes, they get lost in a fizziness that comes across as slightly bitter on the finish. Approachable, but not as agreeable as Cheeky, which is something I thought I’d never type. But here we are. C-

NV Backpack Rowdy Red Wine (2019) – A blend of Washington State merlot and syrah. The syrah influence is immense on the beefy, slightly smoky nose, with notes of tea leaf and cola evident on the simple, moderately tannic palate. Hints of licorice on the back end make this a considerably more savory wine than I’d originally expected. Decent for this price point. B

Verdict: I rated all three of the original wines as better in their 2019 rendition vs. their original construction, and while in some cases the improvement was very modest, in others it was a huge upgrade. Canned wine will probably never be cracked open tableside at a Michelin-starred restaurant the way an upscale craft beer might be, but, hey, baby steps are still steps in the right direction.

each $16 per four-pack of 250ml cans / backpack-wine.com

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NV Backpack Cheeky Rose Wine (2019)

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Rating

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Christopher Null

Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content company.

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