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Wine-by-the-glass taps new profits

Wine-by-the-glass is a financial balancing act in a restaurant’s beverage business. Popular by-the-glass sales let customers sample wines and enjoy them without the expense of purchasing a bottle. However, when the restaurateur opens a bottle, he speculates that it will not spoil before other customers finish it.

 Wine in kegs can offer a way to drain off a great deal of such uncertainty.

“In addition to enhancing on-premise profitability, kegs are also far more economical for wineries than bottles,” according to Thomas Deegan, PhD, manager of business development for TricorBraun WinePak, North America’s largest supplier of rigid packaging to the wine industry.

The keg eliminates the spoilage caused by oxygen because when wine is withdrawn from a stainless steel keg, it is replaced by an inert gas, such as nitrogen or argon. Oxygen does not come in contact with the wine, extending its ‘life’ from a matter of hours to as much as six months.

A keg holds the equivalent of 26 bottles, requires less storage space and eliminates problems associated with breakage.

Installing a keg wine system is very similar to installing a beer draft system and typically costs the restaurateur between US$1,000-1,500 per wine selection. The targeted retail price is US$8-15 per glass for wine served through a keg system.

For wineries, kegs are more economical than bottles. The cost of wine bottles depends upon their country of origin and weight. They range from US$5.50 per case to US$18 per case. 

On the other hand, a wine keg is a onetime expense of between US$80-100. It holds the equivalent of 2.5 cases of wine. It is not unusual for a keg pay for itself in within three uses, and it can be reused for 30 years. Keg leasing programs are also available for wineries.

Wine shipping costs, which are determined by weight, are reduced with kegs. Each full keg holds the equivalent 2.5 cases of wine and typically weighs 58 pounds. On the other hand 2.5 traditional cases of wine typically weigh 75 to 87 pounds.

Wineries may either fill their own kegs or use an independent filler, who could lease them kegs to fill or fill the kegs for them which costs between US$14-17 per keg.

“When kegged wine is served at the correct cellar temperature it is uniformly comparable to the first glass served from the bottle that has been properly stored,” Deegan says. 

"Kegs also represent an important step in reducing the carbon footprint by reducing the cost of transportation and avoiding the recycling associated with bottles." 

TricorBraun WinePak has offices in Northern and Southern California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. It has been serving the wine industry since 1982.

The company’s facilities include a US$2m repacking system that automatically transfers wine bottles from eight-foot high stacks of pallets to individual wineries’ custom, 12-bottle cartons.

 It also offers an online store, WinePak Direct, that serves small wineries and large wineries with exclusive, limited case bottlings. 

TricorBraun WinePak is a unit of TricorBraun, one of North America’s largest providers of bottles, jars, and other rigid packaging components. 

11 August 2014 - Felicity Murray The Drinks Report, editor