5 Reasons Why Kegged Wine is Better than Bottled Wine

If you haven’t considered kegged wines for your beverage program, now is the time. Not only is the per-ounce cost much less than the same wine poured from the bottle, but higher quality wine is available at less per ounce than previous by-the-glass (BTG) placements in a bottle.

The public’s acceptance of draft wine has been surprisingly fast, and the category proved popular in self-pour establishments with beer walls by iPourIt and PourMyBeer.

For perspective on the growth of the category, Cellier Wines, a supplier focused on wine in kegs, shipped over 35,000 wine kegs in 2019. 2020 was a different story, but sales have come roaring back this summer. “This is like the ‘Screwcap vs. Cork’ debate of 15 years ago,” says Alex Sirico, the founder of Cellier Wines. “Tap wine is here to stay because it makes financial and operational sense for by-the-glass wines. Restaurateurs are getting comfortable with higher-end, draft wines. When they realize that a $400 keg of Sancerre or a Napa Cab, equates to a $15.00 bottle with zero waste…they see the value of that offering, with no downside to their bottom line.”

Read on to learn five reasons why kegged wine can work for your venue.

Every Glass is Fresh

Wine in kegs is protected from oxygen because it’s in a closed system, unlike old school methods of wine preservation. Even after ‘gassing’, next day pours from an opened bottle are never as vibrant, especially with sparkling wines (and guests don’t order an Aperol No-Spritz!).

There are different types of kegs on the market and all of them prevent oxygen from spoiling the wine – and by extension, a guest’s experience.  Stainless steel kegs, and some one-way kegs, have stems inside (like a long straw) from the coupler connection down to the bottom of the keg.  Inert gas is pushed into the top of the keg and the pressure pushes the wine down and up through the stem.  Inert gas lacks oxygen, which is the enemy of freshness. Some kegs, like KeyKeg, have a gas-impervious bag inside the keg that contains the wine. Gas of any kind (even air) is pushed into the keg between the inner wall and the outside of the bag, squeezing the bag and pushing wine through the faucet.  

End Corked Wine

Corked wine is easy to catch, if your staff checks every single bottle that has a natural cork. That cardboard, moldy smell is unmissable, when you have the time to look for it. And the truth of the matter is, busy bartenders don’t always have that luxury. Cork failure can result in oxidized wine, making it taste tired, off, or vinegary. In the past, as many as one out of every 12 bottles of wine had some type of cork failure. The industry has worked hard to correct this, but it still happens (and when it does, make sure you get credited for those bad bottles or those losses come right out of your profits!). Kegs are corkless, so this is never an issue with draft wine.

Enhanced Margins

The math is simple when operators pull BTG from kegs, versus pouring from bottles. The kegged cost per ounce is less than the same wine bottled, especially if you’re using splits. To cut back on the losses from end-of-night partial bottles of Prosecco, operators often use splits, but the per-ounce cost is through the roof! Sparkling wine in kegs is a fraction of the cost.

This means fatter margins without raising prices, or the same margins when running BTG specials. Corked wine equals waste, which directly impacts margins. And when you have to comp a fresh glass because of compromised wine, it hits the bottom line and your reputation.

Environmentally Friendly

Every standard wine keg (5.16 gallons to 20 liters) of wine replaces over 26 bottles (750ml). That includes the cases in which they’re shipped, the printed labels, and the enclosures (cork & capsule or Stelvin).  Kegs require less material and energy spent, plus, kegs save room in the landfill. 

There is an ongoing debate between the advocates of reusable steel kegs and those who prefer one-way, recyclable kegs.  Both camps have valid points for their preference, while agreeing that both options are more environmentally friendly than two cases of bottles.

Easy Time-Saver

It’s Friday night and the service bar tickets are curling over the counter. Opening bottles takes time. So, what do servers do? They open bottles pre-shift, and partially reinsert the corks. Shoving the crumbly, dry, top side of the cork inside the bottle is a sad, unhygienic solution. If you’re running a high-volume establishment, skip the tragic re-corking and try draft wine instead. It’s a speedy, cost-effective solution.

John Dorminey, based in the Southeast, is Director of That Dog’ll Hunt.  He helps bars and restaurants elevate their glass pour programs and curate wine offerings that engage their guests.  As the Draft Wine Guy, John is developing a YouTube channel of brief videos covering best practices, trouble-shooting, equipment options based on product and venue, as well as reviews of draft wines, done on location fresh out of the tap.  To learn more, visit DogllHunt.com now or DraftWineGuy.com starting October, 2021.

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