Wine In Kegs: It’s About Time!

keg wine

NPA's Hardy Wallace pulls a glass of wine from his tap. National Process Alliance is a winery that makes wine only in kegs and 3/4 litre stainless steel canteens.

I love it! I just heard a story from my favorite source of news and information — National Public Radio, of course. It seems that Out The Door restaurant in San Francisco is using kegged wine for their wines-by-the-glass. Now there’s a twist on a current debate — it’s not just  “cork vs screw cap”:  we now have wine kegs thrown into the mix.

But before you go muttering about “crazy new inventions,” let me remind you of an experience I believe we’ve all had. You’re sitting in the lounge of a fine restaurant, about to have a glass of wine before dinner. You order a glass of Chardonnay (or Sauvignon Blanc, or Pinot Grigio, or whatever) and when it arrives you give it a quick swirl and stick your nose in it. Instead of fruit, or oak, or spice, you get a whiff of — nasty old wine.

The problem with “glass pour” wines, whether they come from a cork or a screw cap bottle, is that once they’re opened they have a limited shelf life. You can inject the bottle with nitrogen, or Vacu-Vin the heck out of it (that’s the little pump that sucks oxygen out of an opened bottle), but it’ll still taste pretty funky after two or three days. I don’t know about you, but I want every glass I order to taste like the first glass out of the “bottle.”

But maybe there needn’t be a “bottle!” This great new keg system apparently functions like a vacuum bag, so that the wine inside isn’t exposed to oxygen and every glass tastes fresh. I’m all for that. And better yet, it’s more “green” and environmentally friendly, because the container is continuously re-used. And because the packaging is less expensive for wineries, the wine is less expensive for restaurants  and for us wine drinkers. This is a smart idea, and should lead to better wine-drinking experiences for all of us.

There aren’t many wineries or restaurants who’ve jumped on the keg bandwagon (yet), and there are apparently some glitches to be worked out (every keg has to be cleaned and refilled by hand, and that’s a lot of work if you’re pouring several keg wines). But I suggest we exert a little pressure. Let’s lobby our favorite bartender for wine on tap. Let’s tell them, “Go keg or go home!”

Let me know how it works out. Cheers!

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