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Wine kegs have arrived

Whistler restaurant bravely offers resort's first wine from a keg

Wine packaging is something wine producers have been experimenting with for decades. There's the good old fashioned glass bottle with a cork in the top. But these days many wine producers are using screw tops instead of corks. A small number of wineries put their product in ceramic bottles. Wine is also being packaged in bags, boxes and Tetra packages.

Some winemakers are taking a big leap of faith and Whistler's Alta Bistro has decided to take the leap as well by following the lead of the beer industry and putting wine into aluminum kegs. Three popular wines served at Alta are now available on tap. Wine on tap is a relatively new concept and Eric Griffith from Alta Bistro says serving wine from a keg and through a tap makes sense for a number of reasons.

First, he says the taste of quality wine poured from a keg at his restaurant is just as good as wine poured from a corked glass bottle. The freshness lasts once the keg is tapped. Griffith says after four weeks, a wine keg is still producing good wine.

Second, he says packaging wine in an aluminum keg is very sustainable.

"You aren't ending up with little bits of bottles that are oxidized," Griffith says. "I know the wine so it should be exactly how it presents so if it's showing some kind of oxidization it's going to get thrown away."

According to Griffith, one keg holds the equivalent of 26 wine bottles.

Third, Griffith says, when the restaurant is busy, pouring wine is now easier and quicker than ever. This is a benefit he and the team at Alta Bistro didn't even think about until after the taps were installed.

"It's faster than going into the fridge and unscrewing something," he says. "It's awesome, it just flows so nicely."

A company called Fresh Tap is marketing the system Griffith is using. Shauna Burry, Fresh Tap's education director, reports that 48 wineries have partnered with her company to offer their products to restaurants in kegs.

"It is a much greener way to consume wine by the glass," says Burry. "It eliminates all bottles, corks and caps. After being in production for just about a year and a half we've already eliminated the need for 143,000 bottles."

She estimates that Fresh Tap kegs have eliminated the need to make 7,700kg (17,000 lbs) of cardboard. Those numbers will continue to grow because the stainless steel wine kegs are expected to last for up to 20 years.

"For the consumer, they are always guaranteed a fresh glass of wine," says Burry.

At this point, Alta customers are guaranteed fresh glasses of premium wines from Joie Farm, Painted Rock Estate Winery and Laughing Stock Vineyards. Griffith says an American wine will be added to the lineup soon.