The next time you tap a keg, it’s entirely possible that wine’ll flow out. It turns out that a small but growing portion of the wine harvest is finding its way into metal, not glass, containers. Free Flow Wines dominates the business of putting wine into kegs. The company has grown by 50 percent in each of the last six years, and it’s just moved into a new, 56,000-square-foot space in Sonoma, CA. Free Flow Wines looks like a winery, but no wine is made there. Instead, on behalf of more than 145 wineries and 260 wine brands, it fills up kegs that are destined for the by-the-glass program at more than 5000 restaurants, bars, hotels and stadiums across the country.
It also turns out that there’s a method to the madness. Tapping wine cuts costs for restaurants, and offers customers better quality product. The biggest problem non-keg-ed wine presents to restaurateurs? Bottles of wine begin to deteriorate as soon as their corks are pulled and their contents exposed to the air. As a result, the half bottle of wine left unsold at the end of the previous evening will be noticeably muted by the time the bar opens again the next day. The best restaurants dump the wine and take the hit. But not all do, and I doubt I’m alone in having been served wine at a restaurant that’s dull, flat and flavorless, because it had been opened several days earlier.
That not the case with wine on tap: There’s no oxidation and spoilage, every glass is as fresh as the first and served at the perfect temperature. It’s eco-friendly, too. Every keg is reused, and each time it is, 26 fewer glass bottles end up in the landfill.