The practice of serving wine from a keg or cask has long been a tradition in Europe, where what grows together, goes together. Imagine sitting down to a plate of Coq au Vin in a little village in Burgundy and being offered a glass of Chianti — l’impossible! Your glass would be filled with the local stuff, out of the cask in back.
But in New York, the notion of regional eating and drinking has only recently taken hold.
Fueled in part by the New York market’s embrace of the locavore lifestyle, as well as by young drinkers who aren’t prejudiced towards non-traditional bottling and varietals, the trend of local, tapped wine is catching on.
In 2010, the Gotham Project, a wine-keg company from the Finger Lakes, made inroads into the NYC restaurant scene by introducing a New York Riesling. With the success of the Gotham Project has come the next wave of regional winemakers selling their drink in keg. Paumanok, Channing Daughters, Raphael, Shinn and Red Hook winery, to name a few, are embracing this effort. Wineries and restaurateurs are realizing cask wine makes environmental and economic sense, and offers value to us.
Just think about the reduction in cost to the winery: no more corks, labels, foils, bottles, and packing materials that add a few bucks on to each bottle; and the same reduction in restaurant waste, having to no longer recycle or throw all that material out. The cost savings, sometimes as much as 25%, is then (hopefully!) passed on us.
Also, the flexibility of a keg program allows restaurants to sell wine in different sizes, guarantees freshness using inert gas, and most importantly, allows us to buy a glass for $8-$10, rather than for what seems like the going rate of $14 in Manhattan these days. Sounds like a win-win, right?
If you’re looking to get a taste of local wine on tap, you can visit The Breslin, The John Dory, Terroir, DBGB, Burger and Barrel, and City Winery, all in Manhattan. In Brooklyn, check out Arthur on Smith, Buttermilk Channel, or Seersucker. And the list keeps growing: Swine, a new spot in the West Village, emphasizes locally made and sourced goods, and is dedicated to all things porcine and vinous. Can’t think of two things I love more.
Now if only our antiquated alcohol laws would take another cue from Europe and let us fill our growlers with wine instead of beer. That would be tres magnifique!
Lauren Mowery is a wine and travel writer based in NYC. She blogs at Chasing the Vine.