At my local Whole Foods in Austin, somewhere between the bulk cookie stand and made-to-order breakfast tacos, was a flyer that read "Wine on Tap Release Party - Monday 5-7pm." As a lover of wine, I found myself interested in this new exciting concept, and I added the event to my calendar. This is what I found out:
The Whole Foods in Austin claims to be the first national grocery retailer to offer a refillable container wine on tap. They're calling the new venture "Old Schoolers" and the classic glass jugs, with a fittingly simple no-frills logo, come in 12 oz, 32 oz, and 64 oz sizes. The concept is simple: you buy a reusable jug, bring it to the bar area in the back of the grocery store and have one of the bartenders fill it up with one of the several wine varietals. Gotham Project Wines are the exclusive wine distributor for the Old Schoolers launch, with 6 easy-to-drink offerings (Pinot Noir, Riesling, Zinfandel, Rose, Red Blend, White). It's an eco-conscious and affordable choice with containers ranging from $1.99 - $4.99 and the wine itself ranging from $5.99 to $19.99.
I spoke a bit with Charles Bieler of The Gotham Project, who mentioned the idea came about from a simple motivation to do something innovative in the wine industry. He explained that the keg concept isn't too radically different from how wine is typically stored in many wineries, which is in large stainless steel tanks. The Master Sommelier at Whole Foods, Devon Broglie, said they tested the system by altering a standard keg-and-tap apparatus with specialized hoses — something he mentioned a DIY'er could do his/herself rather inexpensively. The kegs can hold the equivalent of around 20 bottles of wine, Charles mentioning that the volume is able to offer subtle tasting nuances similar to drinking the same wine from a Magnum or Jeroboam versus a standard bottle.
I sampled several of the wines at the Launch Party, with the Rosè being my favorite. Light, crisp, with a smooth clean finish it seemed to be the perfect wine for an outdoor BBQ or picnic. I got myself a 32 oz container and will definitely be making the rounds to try more of this new way to enjoy wine in the states. For those who can't finish a whole container, you'll be glad to know that the standard Vacu-vin wine preservers fit the mouth of the jugs letting you savor the wine over a few more days.
For now the Old-Schoolers refillable container wine is available exclusively at the flagship Whole Foods store in Austin, but judging from the buzz at the party it won't be long before you see it make its way to a Whole Foods or other grocery retailer near you.
Related: For the Freshest Beer, Buy a Growler
(Images: Chris Perez)