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Tapping into the Future: What to Expect with Kegged Wine

Wine on tap

Everyone knows that the best way to the freshest pour of beer is to get it from the tap, but what about wine. Over the last half-decade, a new trend has been making its way into restaurants and bars across the country – Wine on tap. What seems to have started as a marketing gimmick has rapidly grown in popularity, with over 4,000 locations selling wine on tap in the United States alone.

The Glass Pour Conundrum

When a restaurant is deciding on a glass pour list, a number of factors require consideration. The issue that a lot of restaurants face when deciding on what wines to make available BTG (by the glass) is one of cost and rate of consumption. The vast majority of wine will begin to develop an off, oxidative note after just one day of being opened. With this in mind, a restaurant will ideally be going through at least one bottle of each of their glass pour wines every single day.

Alas, this is simply not always the case. Seasonal fluctuations in the number of guests, too many choices available, and prohibitive pricing all play a role in glass pour bottles becoming oxidized. The restaurant can either sell sub-par wine as a result or lose money and dump the bottle down the drain.

Keeping things Fresh

Taps

Oxygen is among the greatest of enemies when it comes to keeping anything fresh. For those not familiar with the effects of oxidation, cut an apple in half and leave it out on the counter for an hour. The center will quickly begin to shift towards brown and the flavor profile of the apple will change. The same concept can be applied to wine.

Once a bottle of wine is opened, oxygen rushes in and begins to degrade the liquid inside. A keg solves this problem on multiple levels. First, a keg is tapped rather than opened. Because of this there is no introduction to the air on the outside of the keg, keeping the wine fresh inside. As kegs are emptied of their contents, they are pumped full of inert gas which creates a protective layer over the wine inside, preventing spoilage.

The massive markup restaurants have on their bar is no secret. Wine is often 300 – 400% more expensive for the consumer than the wholesaler, and this number can be even higher with wines poured by the glass. Certain beverage programs will pad their spoilage numbers by increasing their BTG markup even more. Using kegs helps eliminate the need for this degree of markup with the reduction in spoilage.

Who is Kegging Wine?

While there are several different companies currently supplying kegs for wine, Free Flow Wines is among the largest on the west coast. Not only is the company dedicated to keeping wine fresh, but they have an impressive sustainability initiative as well.

Kegs have the ability to hold more wine with less material when compared to bottles, decreasing the cost of transit from the winery to the distributor to the restaurant. Kegs are also reused where bottles are recycled. While a better option than ending up in a landfill, (which many bottles do) recycling is a fairly energy intensive process. Free flow wines is able to simply wash and reuse their kegs, retaining 95% of the water used in the cleaning process and decreasing carbon emissions.

Free Flow Wines works with over 125 wineries across the globe to produced quality kegged wine. Some of the largest names include:

Almost Perfect

With so many positives associated with kegging wine, why isn’t everyone doing it? One major restriction when thinking about adding a keg of wine to a BTG list is a simple matter of space. If you have a bar with only four or five beers available on tap, can you afford to sacrifice even one of the lines for wine?

There are also complaints that some wines on tap pick up several off flavors. Most commonly, people report a metallic tang coming from kegged wine. Lines running from coolers to the tap can also run the risk of microbial growth, and unclean faucets can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Just as with beer, wine lines should be cleaned with regularity, ideally every two weeks.

So, is kegged wine a trendy fad or the way of the future.  There are many obvious benefits to kegging wine, but there are several drawbacks as well. We will likely see at least one or two BTG kegs appearing at our favorite restaurants in future, though it is unlikely that they will replace bottles entirely.  

Whether your wine is coming from a tap, bottle or even a can – StiQit is designed to leave any 6-8 oz. pour of wine completely sulfite free.

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