Thinking Outside the Bottle

For more than 200 years, wine bottles have enabled easy transport, long-term cellaring and convenient service. Consumer and on-premise needs have evolved though. New technologies such as keg-on-tap wine, which address these requirements, are rising in popularity.

Keg-on-tap wine systems can bring several benefits:
  • They let servers fill glasses very quickly, crucial in high-volume venues.
  • The last glass from a keg is as fresh as the first, because inert gas is injected to keep oxygen away from the wine.
  • Less wine is wasted since there won’t be 1.5 ounces of wine left in bottles after 6 ounce pours.
  • Keg wine is never corked.
  • Kegs can vastly reducing the amount of glass that need be manufactured, shipped and then recycled or dumped into landfill.
  • Decreased bottle count cuts garbage collection fees.
  • In some cases, a restaurant’s cost-of-goods for a glass of wine will be lower with kegs.

I recently visited Free Flow Wines in Napa. They have more than 200 brands of wine in keg, among them consumer favorites such as Jackson Family Wines and Gallo, classics like Au Bon Climat and Charles Krug, and new critical favorites including Ant Farm Wines, Matthiasson and Tatomer. Free Flow currently serves 43 states.

Thinking Outside the Bottle “Wine on tap in stainless steel kegs is all about quality. It’s a superior glass of wine,” says Jordan Kivelstadt, Founder and CEO of Free Flow Wines. “The wine’s served at the perfect temperature and is never oxidized.” I tried several wines out of tank myself and found them all to be sound and showing well.

Each Free Flow stainless steel tank is equivalent to 26 bottles of wine. The company manages initial fill and shipment of the kegs as well as the return, 14-stage sanitizing process and re-filling of empties. Free Flow works with more than 100 distributors nationwide.

In addition to Free Flow’s attention to wine quality, ecology is a key focus. The company claims that, since its founding in 2009, its kegs have kept 3.5 million bottles out of landfills. The Coliseum at Caesar’s Palace got rid of bottles entirely two-and-a-half years ago. That move alone has eliminated 4.5 tons of bottle waste per year. Free Flow’s “kegging” facility also includes an advanced and unique water purification system that allows them to continually re-use virtually 100% of their water.

Keg-on-tap can also make financial sense for restaurants, bars and stadiums. Most see a 1 to 3 cents-per-ounce savings when opting for keg vs. bottle for the same wine. They can also virtually eliminate the 8–15% losses on wine from spoilage and waste, including leftovers in bottle after four 6-ounce pours. According to Kivelstadt, most restaurants recapture the cost of the system in 6 - 9 months.

Photo Credit: Free Flow Wines

By SF Wine School | | Fred Swan, Free Flow Wines, keg wine, Wine Tech, wine technology |
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San Francisco Wine School strives to open up the world of wine to serious students and enthusiasts everywhere while helping people of all levels break into the wine industry, advance their career, or simply pursue their passions. Founded by Master Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator David Glancy, San Francisco Wine School is the largest wine school in the U.S., offering the most thoughtful approach to wine study. Their inspired educational programs and workshops are taught in their state of the art wine education & events center and their cutting edge virtual classroom by industry-leading instructors from all major educational disciplines. San Francisco Wine School’s curriculum features the best content in the business: expert course materials, carefully conceived wine flights, and in-depth blind tasting exercises designed to engage students, illuminate course content and enhance learning. Their brand new sunlight-filled wine education & events center is conveniently located just 5 minutes from San Francisco International Airport and boasts 16-ft high coved ceilings, eight 12-ft tall arched windows, and gorgeous 180 degree views of the San Bruno Mountains, South San Francisco City Hall and the San Francisco Bay, making it the perfect place to enjoy classes, industry seminars and tastings and host a wide variety of private events—from serious educational programs for wine/hospitality industry staff to team-building and other fun, social, private events for wine enthusiasts.

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