Is the wine on tap, Sir? The new trend hitting Irish wine shops and bars
Buying wine on tap in shops - and ordering it on tap in restaurants - is a typical practice in London and New York.
Wine is bought and stored by the shop or restaurant in a specially designed barrel that keeps the wine air-tight and as fresh as if you’ve just opened the bottle yourself.
Bottling and transportation costs are averted, and premium wines can be bought at a cheaper price. Pertinent too, are the environmental benefits: less packaging means a kinder carbon footprint.
Now, Dublin shops Clontarf Wines and Dollard and Co, and Swans on the Green in Naas, are offering wine on tap. And hundreds of restaurants around the country like Luna, Etto, Chameleon, Mr Fox, Featherblade, Jo Burger and Skinflint are pouring their wines directly from specially designed barrels.
James Tobin, who took over as owner of Clontarf Wines two weeks ago, says they use a small deposit fee scheme whereby customers can bring home a bottle and return it again in exchange for a sterilised one for their next purchase.
He explains: “The wine is lovely, it keeps perfectly fresh on tap. It’s the same as when you buy a bottle from the shop and open it and it’s fresh.”
“The thing that interests people is the green ethos. Rather than shipping containers full of glass bottles across the world, we’re just dealing with the barrels (less bulk).”
“We take a €5 deposit on the bottle, and each time you come in we give you a sterilised bottle in return.”
The system is “in its infancy, but interest is growing,” Tobin says.
Dollard and Co, which also sells wine “en vrac” in 500 mililitre or one-litre bottles, says the benefit of wine on tap is not just environmental, but also with regard to taste and freshness.
Lisa Coe, Marketing Manager of Wine Lab, which supplies Dollard and Co and Clontarf Wines, says buying and drinking wine on tap is already prevalent in the USA, Canada, Spain and France.
“Environmentally, there are so many benefits to this. You reduce your recycling packaging by 95pc. Bars and restaurants have 94pc less to recycle. There’s one plastic keg which is fully recyclable.”
“When you’re trucking wine across from Europe, you can transport double the amount of wine by cask. And bottling wines are very expensive, it’s one of the most expensive things for wine makers, so you don’t have that cost. Putting wines into casks is something that the makers can do themselves, it’s easy to do.”
“Also, if you go into a pub in town now, mid-week, you could be getting the last glass of a bottle that’s been sitting there for three or four days, and it doesn’t taste nice.”
“All of these issues are eliminated, the cask is completely oxygen free.”
Coe added: “It’s a far more economical way of buying wine that needs to be drank fast. We’re not talking about expensive Bordeaux and Burgundy, or wines that need to be aged. This is for fast-moving wines that are supposed to be drank young.”