Tapping In

Edmonton restaurants hop on board with the growing wine-on-tap trend.

Most people don’t bat an eye at the idea of draft beer, but what about wine from a keg? For Europeans, it’s all too familiar – they’ve consumed wine from taps for decades. But it was only in the last year that wine on tap made its debut in Edmonton, and the trend is growing.

Century Hospitality Group‘s Chris Lachance – one of the first in Edmonton to use wine from kegs – has been integrating them into restaurants including Hart’s, The Parlour and MKT since last year, and is currently installing wine lines in Century Grill and Hundred Bar. “Honestly, I see it as the next generation in wine,” says Lachance, “This is the route everyone is going to go.”

Part of what sold Lachance on the idea was just how much waste it cut from the business. When bottles are opened for wine-by-the-glass sales and are not consumed within days of opening, the threat of oxidization creeps in. The leftovers are then simply dumped down the sink. For Lachance and other restaurateurs, that wasted wine is money poured down the drain. But, with keg wine, freshness is never an issue; inert gasses help push the wine through the lines, filling any empty spaces, and protecting it from air contamination.

Jesse Kupina, co-owner of Central Social Hall, installed his wine kegs and accompanying specially made lines (dense lines designed to be completely impenetrable to oxygen) for wine last January, and has been offering wine from the tap ever since. “When we launched it, people were kind of under the impression it was an inferior product because it was from the tap,” says Kupina. “But, when it’s in the keg, the wine is in the same condition as it was when it was made. It’s the best fresh wine you can have.”

Of course, not everyone has been as enthusiastic. Lachance says that, in the beginning, a few of his customers turned their noses up at the concept, and Kupina found himself educating customers on the benefits of keg wine. “For us, its better quality consistently,” says Kupina. “The wines can last in a keg for up to eight months, though we’ve never had to wait that long to change one out, and it’s eco-friendly. By getting wine by the keg, you are eliminating all the bottling and packaging and excess shipping – so it does have an environmental impact.”

Carla Pipella, maitre d’ for Ernest’s at NAIT, and former member of the Society of Wine Educators, says that though the keg wine trend is fairly new to Edmonton, it’s quite common in the United States and has been prevalent in Vancouver over the last few years. Like screw-top wines, Pipella says keg wines are best suited for mid-range vinos. But that doesn’t preclude those of a higher quality from the equation. “It’s best for fruit-forward wines that are meant to be drunk young,” says Pipella.

The trend is also gaining steam locally. Aside from Lachance’s and Kupina’s establishments, keg wine can now be found at Characters, Packrat Louie, Cactus Club, and Craft Beer Market, among others. And despite any naysayers that happen upon his restaurants, Lachance believes wine-on-tap is here to stay.

“Think about it. There used to be a stigma 20 years ago towards drinking a glass of draft. People preferred the bottle to the tap because they thought the lines were dirty or that the beer was watered down. Today, whether it’s at MKT or Craft Beer Market, preference seems to be fresh beer on tap,” says Lachance. “I don’t know if it will go to that extent in the wine industry, but I won’t open another restaurant without wine on tap. That’s how strongly I believe in it.”

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