• Simon Reilly


This article was originally published in Issue 13 of ROOT + BONE magazine in March 2017. Illustration courtesy of Rob Gavin. Check out Rob's work at robgavin.ie

Size does matter. We don’t want those little 750ml bottles. They never held enough wine to go round anyway. We want wine on tap! In days gone by, only the cheap plonk was sold in bulk, but now it’s the good stuff that’s flowing out of the taps.

One of the pioneers of alternative packaging is South-East London’s very own Australian in Burgundy, Andrew Nielsen. Since 2011, Andrew has made delicious, hand-crafted wine from under-appreciated sites in Burgundy under his Le Grappin label. Due to increasing prices in Burgundy he branched out to cheaper sites in Beaujolais and the Rhone Valley under his Du Grappin offshoot.

Andrew’s passion for the environment led him to experiment with packaging. First he dispensed with tin caps on his bottles and then created the “Bagnum”. Two bottles of wine in a re-sealable bag makes the Bagnum an essential part of any picnic or Glastonbury visit. But it is Andrew’s use of kegs that we think is the real game changer. “After seeing brewers using KeyKegs rather than casks to preserve fresh hop flavours, it occurred to me that the same would be true for fresh, fruit driven wines”.

Andrew’s partner in crime in the wine on tap revolution is Rupert Taylor of wine merchants OW Loeb. Rupert is the man who delivers the wine to the customers via a plethora of high-tech, bespoke wine tap systems across London’s best restaurants and wine bars.

Rupert has put wine on tap into 55 sites across London and has plans to expand, not just within London, but to Bristol, Brighton and Paris this year. He has a wide network of exciting winemakers who supply wine on tap and it is growing all the time. He passionately believes that wine on tap is here to stay; “I genuinely think everyone will do this. In fifteen years we will look back and think; ‘why did we use bottles?’, it is such a waste”.

The stats are compelling:

  • There are 6 125ml glasses in a bottle or 160 in a keg.

  • OW Loeb’s biggest customer saves 5 tonnes of glass every year by using wine on tap.

  • Without the need for heavy glass bottles, labels, corks or boxes, wine on tap’s carbon footprint is about 10% that of bottled wine.

As well as these environmental benefits, both the winemakers and wine drinkers benefit too. Keg is much easier and quicker for winemakers to produce, so they get cash in the door quickly. The ease of offloading the wine also encourages winemakers to produce different, often experimental, batches of wine they probably wouldn’t have bottled. This means interesting, limited releases are common, so the turn-over of wines is quick, giving wine drinkers greater variety and allowing us to try new and exciting wines, which simply would not be available without wine on tap. Not only that, it is cheaper to produce and the savings are passed to us drinkers.

Our favourite wine on tap locations include; Brunswick House, The Grain Store, Galvin HOP, Morito and Trinity. Exciting new wine on tap releases to look out for include; Du Grappin’s 2016 Beaujolais-Villages (including a limited “low sulphur” release) and 2016 Macon-Villages due out in March and Jean Pierre Guedon’s Muscadet from Domaine Les Hautes Noëlles (a newcomer to the UK). And if you can’t wait for these beauties then Benito Santos’s Godello from Galicia in Spain is currently flowing from the taps and is absolutely delicious.

Next time you eat out, do yourself a favour and check what’s on the taps before you order a bottle.