Is wine on tap the future for the on-trade? At the London wine fair I had a chance to check out the Petainer Keg wine delivery system, which was being demonstrated on the Roberson stand. I quizzed business development manager Adam Green about it, and tried some wines.
Petainer is a wine delivery system for restaurants that is based on using 20 litre PET containers (kegs) of wine, which are then dispensed using nitrogen pressure. There’s flow control, so you can manage the dispense.
The PET kegs are flushed with nitrogen and then filled. They have a shelf life of 12 months after filling, and once they are tapped the wine is in good condition for at least two months. 20 litres is the equivalent of 27 bottles. [30 litre kegs are also available, and in the USA stainless steel returnable kegs are also an option.]
You don’t need sophisticated equipment to fill the kegs; simply a keg coupler. Roberson are importing wines in keg from Chris Brockway, Graham Tatomer, Pax Mahle/Wind Gap and Copain, as well as a few things from France. The great thing about this system is that the kegs don’t need to be returned, but can simply be recycled in the UK.
The Petainer system costs £4000 at its most basic. In some situations, Roberson are installing them for free in return for supplying the wine. ‘Aside from the financial cost of getting it in, I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to do it,’ says Adam Green. He cites the following reasons:
There’s a saving of 15% compared with the equivalent wine in bottle. The quality of service is better: you get the same pour at perfect temperature. There is often a cost saving for the customer, and it’s greener, because there’s much less waste (300 g of PET versus 27 glass bottles).
How does it fare in practice? I tried two glasses of the Wind Gap Trousseau Gris 2013: one from bottle and one that had been in the keg for 6 months. Both were lovely, but the keg version tasted a little bit fresher.
I then tried the Tatomer Meeresboden Gruner Veltliner 2014 from Santa Barbara, one from bottle and one that had spent a month in keg. I had a tiny preference for the bottled version, which was showing a bit more detail, but the difference was minimal.
I also tried the Broc Cellars Love Red 2013, one from bottle and one from keg (6 months). This time I had a slight preference for keg. All three wines showed that there’s no particular downside to using keg in terms of wine quality.
My conclusion? This is a really interesting option for wine by the glass programs in restaurants.
Here’s a video of the system featuring Roberson: