“You’re going to see [wine on tap] explode. It’s the most PC thing you could possibly ever imagine. If you took your car at 1 a.m. and drove around the back alleys behind every restaurant, you’d see huge recycling cans overflowing with empty wine bottles. This expensive bottle, everything about it was a waste, a complete and utter waste,” said Doug Washington, co-owner of San Francisco’s Town Hall and Anchor & Hope, to the San Francisco Chronicle in 2010.
Any wine connoisseur will tell you that the aging process of wine is critically important to helping a wine reach its fullest potential. The aging process starts right when a wine begins fermenting, infusing its chemical compounds together and allowing it to develop multifaceted layers of flavor, softness and depth. Each grape and varietal needs varying levels of aging to experience its “peak,” or greatest level of maturity. So how does the bottle contribute to the aging process and how will kegging wine affect this and a wine’s quality?
The bottle allows a wine to continue its aging process until it is uncorked, which is why vintage years are so important and exciting to all the wine-o’s out there. It is important to distinguish that a wine usually is aged considerably in the barrel before it reaches the bottle, so developing a quality wine that is ready to drink right out of the barrel is certainly possible. This is most easily attainable with more delicate grapes, such as pinot noirs and other whites because they need less time to round out their rough edges and develop a good balance. The bottle is an added (and important) perk of helping a wine develop its full maturity, but it really depends on the wine and wine maker’s vision to determine its aging needs. Some wines need 2 or 10 or 30 years to reach their peak. Others need considerably less or no time in the bottle, and these wines are the perfect candidates for wine on tap.
Kegging wine takes wine straight from the barrel and puts it into a smaller, technologically-savvy cask (or keg) for easy distribution. The aging process does not occur in the keg because the wine is blanketed with a gas such as nitrogen or argon to pressurize the keg. Yet, if wineries choose to keg wines that are already of great quality right out of the barrel, it won’t matter that the wine isn’t aging in the keg; it will already be at its peak. This blanket further preserves the wine in its current state and doesn’t expose it to oxidation, so there is no spoilage.
While the bottle never will and absolutely should never be replaced, wine on tap offers a perfect solution to simplify any establishment’s wines-by-the-glass program. Restaurateurs can continue to have their most robust grapes and best quality wines offered by the bottle but save on time and waste while increasing profits and helping the planet by further adopting a wine on tap program.