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Wine on the Town: Restaurant Trends

Wine on Tap 

Wine service at restaurants changes more than you might think, not only from the styles of wine offered, but the way it is offered. Many of these trends occur nationally, with the first flickers often starting in New York or the West Coast. I’ve dabbled in the New York City fine-dining scene for over a decade and I’ll report here regularly on what’s popping up in the on-premise world.

Many New York City restaurants are adding wine-on-tap to their by-the-glass offerings.  Kegs containing simple everyday whites, reds, rosés and sparklers, have always been popular in Europe, and it is common to see them behind an Italian bar. In the U.S. however, the trend is towards high quality wine and many top restaurants and bars in NYC are embracing this innovative type of packaging. The Hudson Hotel, Elsewhere, DBGB, Blue Ribbon Brooklyn, Brooklyn Bowl, Home Sweet Home, John Dory, Terroir Tribeca, are just a few of the early adopters of keg wine in the city.

Wine-on-tap, or keg wine, has become popular for a myriad of reasons. First of all the kegs come in a number of different sizes and they are easy to store. Whites can be kept in a walk-in refrigerator and reds under the bar. Conversion is easy and draft-beer lines can easily be used to move the wine around with a slight adjustment to pressure.

With keg wine there is no waste, wines stay fresh and do not spoil. Furthermore cork taint, which is said to affect as many as 3-5 percent of wines produced, is not an issue. An added bonus is that because these wines are less expensive to package and store, restaurants make slightly higher margins, and a wine-on-tap offering often subsidizes a more expensive glass pour. One cannot forget the environmental benefit; a 5-gallon keg keeps 25 standard glass bottles from the recycling bin or the landfill.

In addition to selections from Italy, France, and Spain, some top domestic producers are filling kegs for restaurants around the country. At Elsewhere, in New York, Sarah Sutel pours popular Saintsbury Chardonnay out of keg. The Gotham Project is New York’s first keg-only wine company and they produce a delicious Finger Lakes Riesling that has been poured at John Dory and Terroir Tribeca.

When you see a wine-on-tap offering, don’t dismiss it as plunk. These wines can offer great value and additionally are a greener alternative to the traditional glass bottle and cork.

Next time from Janine Lettieri:

Look out for a DYI Amari primer, complete with recipe and tutorial. If you’re not the adventurous type, I’ll share a few hot spots to quaff them on the down low.