Attaining ecological sustainability doesn’t just improve your bottom line as a restaurateur. One of the upward trends in this area is with wine service, where kegged wine offers the triple threat of savings, consistent quality, and sustainability.
Wine-by-the-glass is one of the most wasteful areas for a restaurant operator. The second a bottle is opened, exposure to oxygen, light, and fluctuations in temperature deteriorate the quality of its contents, making it unsellable within anywhere between 2-5 days, even with the use of vacuum pumps and expensive enomatic equipment. For operators who aren’t open seven days a week, or for whom wine sales are not consistent enough to ensure that a bottle will always be sold within a few days of opening, the result is unavoidable waste. Other operators struggle with economies of space – glass bottles need recycling, ensuring that they occupy the same space in a restaurant when they are empty as when they are full, posing a double-edged conundrum.
The wine industry has, increasingly, been adopting a new model for sale and service to the restaurant sector as a result: wine on tap. Sold either in stainless steel kegs like beer, or disposable plastic containers more akin to the bag-in-box wines seen in kitchens and at the LCBO, they offer a practical alternative for many restaurateurs. The similarity ends there, however, as the quality of wine available in kegs is far higher than those found in tetrapaks at liquor stores.
Ontario wineries such as Kew, Fielding, and Henry of Pelham have been quick to adopt the keg service method, available through companies such as Freshtap. Several high-value biodynamic wineries, such as Tawse, or California’s Qupe, have also partnered with kegging services.
By employing a combination of nitrogen and carbon dioxide to occupy empty space in the barrel, keg wines are able to eliminate oxidation and preserve wines for up to eight months after tapping, and a steel keg can be reused and recycled for up to 20 years. The risk of cork taint is also eliminated.
Presidio’s Marlena John performs the basic math in her article for TriplePundit: ‘Each standard sized, 19.5L keg, holds 26 bottles worth of wine. Also, wines sold by the glass account for up to 80% of wine sold in restaurants, which equates to approximately 600 million bottles per year. If 10% of that was served from a keg, that would save 60 million bottles yearly. Since only about 27% of glass is recovered for recycling, this would divert millions of bottles from landfills. Furthermore, kegs lessen transported wine weight, which accounts for one-third to one-half of the industry’s transportation carbon emissions.’
Although the installation of a wine-on-tap system comes with an initial cost (between 2 and 3 thousand dollars), savings add up extremely quickly, and kegged wine frequently outsells its bottled counterpart when sold side-by-side, highlighting the impressive rate of adoption by consumers.
For operators focused on consistency and quality, kegged wine offers a smart solution that produces both savings and environmental benefits.