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The next time you are dining out, take a quick gander at the "by the glass" wine list and you might see something quite surprising: a "wines on tap" list. Now beer drinkers around the world have hailed the almighty tap for quite some time. It's fresher! It's more flavorful! The handles are cool! (Ok that last one was me). But having learned to uncork a bottle at the mature age of 5, my mind was reeling at the idea of wine being pushed through a tube out of a tap! Where is the charm? Where is the tradition? Throwing my conventional notions aside however I decided to give it a try, and found myself pleasantly surprised.
What's in a Tap? Once again, Europe is leaps and bounds ahead of us in the trend department. Serving wine out of a cask is second nature in Italy or France. However, here in the ole US we like our wines bottled with fancy labels and fancier prices. In the last few years however, that has begun to change. Restaurants across the country are popping up with kegs of wine in their back rooms. How does it work? Instead of shipping out bottles, the Winery ships out a keg. When the restaurant receives it they simply tap it and serve. Seems simple enough right? Pioneers of this trend seem to think so and they cite several pros to its institution.
“Saving the World, One Keg at a Time.” No this is not the tag line for an alcohol-prone comic book hero. It is the tag line for Free Flow Wines, a leading supplier of wine in kegs. They, along with several others hopping on this train, believe this trend is better for the environment, better for business and better for the consumer. How so?
Save the Trees, Drink out of a Tap. Each Keg is re-usable and can hold upwards of 25 bottles! That means there is greater efficiency across the map – in shipping, in waste removal, and in packaging. All that adds up to a reduced carbon footprint. The Ritz Carlton hotel chain has taken to this trend, with a full page of their menu devoted to “by the cask” wines. The bottom of the menu holds this disclaimer: “Each steel keg put into service eliminates the carbon emissions equivalent of taking a car off the road for two years. “ Now you can tell your friends your end of the day glass of wine is a charitable endeavor!
A Bottle Saved is a Bottle Earned. Sending their wine out in Kegs means major savings for the winery. Think about all the money going into bottling, labeling, and so on. According to one CEO, a winery has the potential of saving upwards of fifty cents per bottle, which may seem like small potatoes but considering the amount of bottles shipping out daily, it adds up to a pretty large… potato field. (I may have lost that analogy half way through, but you get the point!)
Where Everyone Knows your Name, and your Chardonnay of Choice. What does this mean for our favorite restaurant or bar? Purchasing wine at cheaper prices enables them to turn around and sell it at cheaper prices. Plus they don’t have to worry about turn around on their “By the Glass” bottles. With the keg, everything stays fresher longer. Less waste, more profit.
There is a “Me” in Team. I know what you’re thinking. That’s all great! But we haven’t talked about me in a while. How does it all affect my wine drinking experience? Well I’ll tell you! Lower costs for the winery means lower costs for the restaurant which means lower costs for you! It’s a chain of savings. Plus, the suppliers of wine in kegs guarantee fresh wine with every pour. So we have a better product at a cheaper cost with less of a carbon footprint. Sounds amazing right? What could possibly go wrong!
The Con of the Cask. Putting aside the loss of tradition, which is a significant con in an industry more steeped in its institutions than the Catholic Church, there’s also some questions raised about cleanliness. Several protestors to the wine on tap trends are concerned about sanitation. With so many bottles fitting inside, how often is it getting cleaned? Once cleaned, are those chemicals seeping into my wines? Are these legitimate concerns? Probably. Will it slow down the trend? Not in this Pearl’s opinion.
The Pearl’s Palate. I was first introduced to this trend by the good people at Fire and Oak in Montvale, NJ. They have a budding selection of wines on tap and are passionate about the subject. My personal favorite is the Smith and Hook Cabernet. I’ve had it on multiple occasions and it is indeed fresh every time. After seeing it again in the Ritz bar in Ft Lauderdale, and once again having an enjoyable tasting experience, I was sold. Now whenever I happen into a new restaurant, I find myself scanning for a “tap list.” You win this round, Wine Tap. You’re affordable, you’re fresh, and your handles are still cool!