Once a bottle of wine is open and air hits the wine, the quality of the wine goes downhill fast. Restaurants that serve wine by the glass either need to finish the bottle off quickly or dispose of wine that has started to go bad (or, as some restaurants unfortunately do - serve their customers poor quality wine). 

Enter wine in a keg. According to The New York Times, many restaurants in L.A., San Francisco as well as wine bars in Napa Valley are turning to a keg and tap system to keep wine fresh and reduce waste. Restaurants in Atlanta, Michigan and soon New York City are doing the same. 

Restaunt owners like Sang Yoon, the chef and owner of two Father’s Office restaurants in the Los Angeles area, have begun creating keg systems for their restaurants.

"Why can’t we just serve good wine out of a keg like we do with beer?” he said. In kegs, which keep out the air, wine could stay perfectly fresh for months, he reasoned. Mr. Yoon found a restaurant in Atlanta that was serving wine from modified beer kegs, and, with an energy borne of obsession, he set out to perfect the system.

He found a treasure-trove of five-gallon soda kegs, big enough to hold about 25 bottles of wine each, no longer used by the bottlers, who had turned to bag-in-box containers. He worked to persuade wineries to fill the stainless steel kegs for him. And he custom-designed coolers for the wine kegs, separate from the cooling system he used for the 36 beers he offers on tap. 

Yoon now serves eight different wines on tap and estimates it saves 10,000 bottles and all their packaging from being disposed of each year. This system not only saves resources from being wasted but it also saves restaurants a lot of money -- savings they can pass on to their customers. Good, fresh wine can be served for $5 to $6 a glass at many of the restaurants that use wine kegs.

Wine served directly from barrels (or kegs) is common in Europe, but here in the U.S. we tend to be a little snobby when it comes to our wine. We want glass bottles and corks that we can sniff for no reason at all to make sure we're getting the "full experience" of the wine. I have in the past been guilty of this myself (not the sniffing corks part). Hopefully as wine is becoming more mainstream and people are working to take the elitism out of wine drinking, wine in a keg will become acceptable across the board. 

Wine in a keg isn't exclusive to restaurants. Some wineries are marketing a form of keg wines directly to consumers. Red Truck Wines has what they call a "mini barrel" that holds the equivalent of four bottles of wine. It keeps fresh for up to six weeks after being opened, has less than half the carbon footprint of glass bottles, and is almost completely recyclable. 

How would you react to being served wine from a keg in a restaurant? As long as it was wine I enjoyed, I'd be fine with it and I'd be happy about the monetary and environmental savings accompanied my glass.

(MNN homepage photo: eliandric/iStockphoto)

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