Two important things you must know:
- My partner does not drink.
- The PR campaign around strawberries and champagne has gone on for too long.
Let’s discuss the first one. My partner does not (usually) drink alcohol, and when they do, they reach for a small pour of a dark stout they then leave unfinished. Me, on the other hand? I, unfortunately, like wine, which is a tough thing to like solo unless you’re comfortable having an unfinished, mostly-full bottle sit in the fridge for days on end. I’m also a dabbler, which means drinking five to six glasses (depending on how heavy your pour is) of the same thing is my personal nightmare. “Personal nightmare” is a little dramatic, I suppose, but I’m not exactly enthused about six glasses (my pours are light) of the same thing.
Enter: canned wines.
Canned wines have solved the problem of me not wanting to commit to an entire bottle of something. Usually containing 150-375ml — anywhere from a fifth to a half-bottle — it’s so much easier to crack open a cold one (I’m assuming I can borrow beer lingo) than reach for my corkscrew, find a stopper, and make space in my already-full fridge for a bottle of wine I decide I’m over after a glass or two.
Honestly, canned wines are just great in general. You can bring them to a picnic without needing to worry if someone remembered a corkscrew. You can toss them in the fridge sideways, without worrying that they’ll roll out, fall onto the floor, and shatter into a million pieces. I got my hands on an extremely lithe can of sparkling rosé — more on this soon — and stuffed it into a cross-body bag (a small cross-body bag!!) so I’d have something to sip on at a party that wasn’t hard liquor or beer.
Now, on to the absolute farce that is champagne and strawberries.
Individually, they’re excellent. I love strawberries! I love sparkling wine! But something about them together just makes these two individually good things kind of terrible — not unlike a bad-for-each-other TV couple (my favorite is Reneé Rapp and the bitchy blonde she dates on The Sex Lives of College Girls).
And yet!! Despite my best efforts, strawberries and champagne continue to be A Thing. You know what should be A Thing? French fries and sparkling wine. I guess this is already A Thing in my world, because fries and bubbles are a top-tier pairing for me! (This actually brings me to a third important thing that you should probably know, that I forgot to mention earlier, which is that I have some wine opinions. I took the equivalent of WSET 1 in college, and it started me on a wine journey that I have been on ever since.)
I decided to take what I know and love one step further. Potato chips are basically the french fries of the grocery store. Some might even argue, controversially, that they’re two sides of the same coin: salty, crunchy, potato-based deliciousness. But what if other chips could stand up to the high bar that french fries have set, one that potato chips can likely meet? What if the ever-elusive perfect pairing for a sparkling wine was something to be found in my local grocery store?
There was only one way to find out. I simply had to drink a bunch of wine and eat entire bags of chips — all in the name of science, of course. Given the impetus behind all of this was champagne, I limited my criteria to just sparkling wines. And then, because of all the aforementioned reasons to love canned wines, I chose only those sparkling wines that were also sold in cans.
Turns out… that was hard.
I popped into five different wine shops while writing this piece, and only three of them sold single cans of sparkling wine (as opposed to multipacks of the same kind), and even those shops only had one or two distinct options available as singles. Granted, I was a little picky. I wanted some nonalcoholic options, definitely something traditional, and then something kind of funky. Eight phone calls and several round-trip bus rides across Brooklyn later, I wound up with the following:
- Picnic Punch White Piquette
- Underwood The Bubbles
- Avinyo Rose Petillant
- House Wines Limited Edition Rainbow Rosé Bubbles
- Eins Zwei Zero Sparkling Rose Alcohol Free
- Sovi Non-Alcoholic Sparkling Rosé
Chips were much easier to procure. I did have some already, because we’re a snack-forward household, but I wanted to get a greater variety to make sure I wasn’t leaving anyone — or any chip — out. Two potato chip varieties — kettle-cooked standard and the thin salt and vinegar ones — some off-brand Takis, Tostitos Cantina Thin & Crispy, Ruffles Cheddar and Sour Cream, Cheez-It (both regular and white cheddar)… like I mentioned, we’re snack-forward.
I put together this spread, enlisted the help of fellow gays, and started to deduce which chip might pair the best with a particular wine!
Underwood The Bubbles x Salt and Vinegar
375 ml, 11% ABV, $6
For a wine that has “The Bubbles” in its name, the bubbles in this canned wine were barely noticeable. And I like a big bubble! That being said, though, it’s surprisingly acidic and medium-bodied, with green apple on the nose. At $6 for a half bottle, I’d say this wine is a steal, and it paired extremely well with salt and vinegar chips! Something about the acid in the chip and the acid in the wine really worked for me. I could see myself reaching for this wine the next time I want a French 75, an Aperol spritz, or a negroni… sbagliato… well, you know the rest.
Picnic Punch Piquette x Takis
355 ml, 6.9% ABV, $7
On its own, this piquette tasted absolutely horrible. As one of my friends aptly described it, “it smells like kombucha and it tastes like salt water”. I expected some weirdness because it was a piquette, but the saltiness was completely unexpected. The piquette did not get any better with the introduction of potato chips, but in a shocking turn of events, actually improved when paired with Takis — and significantly, too. The Takis changed the piquette entirely. Somehow, they muted the saltiness and allowed the sour to shine through! Also, I know this is not technically a wine but it is wine-adjacent and still fizzy so I think it counts!
Avinyo Rose Petillant x (also) Takis?
250 ml, x.x% ABV, $9
This one was… not bad. I hesitate to say good, because from a value perspective, I think there are plenty of sparkling wines that you could purchase for way less than $27 (the can works out to 1/3 of a bottle) that give just as much as this sparkling rosé did. HOWEVER. I was able to fit this wine into a really skinny crossbody bag, and I think there is something to be said for that! I really wanted this wine to work with a kettle chip, mostly to prove my potato chip theory correct, but instead it just fell flat when paired with a standard potato chip! In fact, the only thing it worked with was a Taki. I was a little worried at this point because this was the second wine in a row that I thought worked best with Takis (maybe I just like Takis?), so I moved on to the third wine in the hopes that I’d get some more clarity.
House Wines Limited Edition Rainbow Rosé Bubbles x Kettle Chips
375 ml, 12.5% ABV, $6
I think House Wines missed a branding opportunity here. They call it Rainbow Rosé, but I think that’s a little too on the nose for a can that is covered in a giant rainbow. Why not name it Gay Rosé? It rhymes! Anyway, this Gay Rosé is just as fun and flirty as the can suggests. It’s got a bit of berry in the nose, and it feels GOOD on the tongue. I liked this one much more than the other sparkling rosé in the bunch (the Avinyo). Also, $2 from every case sold goes to the HRC (this is technically a House Wines x HRC collab). It’s a little sweet, but thankfully disproved the Taki Theory. In terms of chips, this wine pairs best with neutral kettle chips — but if you want to branch out of chip world (which yes, I know this is technically a chip piece, so ignore this if you want!) this wine was excellent with peanut butter. I could see it really shining next to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or a roast squash tahini dish. But as a chip pairing, I have to go solid kettle on this one.
Eins Zwei Zero Sparkling Rose Alcohol Free
250 ml, 0.0% ABV, $8
This one might be my new favorite non-alcoholic sparkling wine. Sure, the bubbles were a little small, but this wine has bite and body and was surprisingly balanced. Also, it would definitely fit into a crossbody bag. Mostly off-dry, a gorgeous pale pink in a glass, and perfect with a cheddar and sour cream Ruffle. No notes, honestly, other than a reminder to myself to buy this again.
Sovi Non-Alcoholic Sparkling Rosé x Tortilla Chips
250 ml, <0.5% ABV, $8
Considered against other non-alcoholic sparkling wines, I’d say the Sovi is decent. The nose is fruity — my partner said it reminded them of Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice, and I thought it was closer to Hawaiian Punch but to be fair I haven’t had Hawaiian Punch in years — and it tastes exactly like it smells. Tortilla chips won this round, narrowly beating out the kettle chips, though I suspect a saltier potato chip would take the crown.
Honestly, I thought potato chips would emerge the victor across all wines, but as we’ve learned, that was not the case and I stand corrected! Just goes to show that a well-placed Taki can change public opinion.
Bubble Trouble is a series helmed by Autostraddle Managing Editor Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya about the nostalgia, effervescence, and never-ending appeal of carbonated beverages.