Ask Wine Wizard

Bottling Blues Leads to Kegging Thoughts


Arnold Alexander — Bend, Oregon asks,

I really hate bottling. I pretty much detest almost everything about it, from the hassle of cleaning to assembling all of the parts and pieces of gear and supplies. The only thing I like about it is having my friends over while I feed them pizza and beer (no wine allowed on bottling day) and press gang them into giving me a bunch of free labor. Then there are the times when I have a corked bottle turn up after all that hard work . . . I could go on! Sorry to complain. I’ve been contemplating kegging my wine — I know it’s maybe a little weird and it does feel like unknown territory. I’ve never homebrewed beer but some of my buddies have, so I feel like I could give it a try. What do you think about kegged wine — yay or nay?


Hey, I’ve been there . . . a couple of years ago I also entered into unknown territory. After years of bottling one of my commercial Pinot Noirs in Stelvin screwcaps, I embarked on an adventure into the land of wine kegs, or “wine-on-tap.” I kept hearing from sommeliers and restaurant staff how by-the-glass programs were exploding for them and wine-on-tap was leading the way. Consumers liked the environmentally friendly message, they liked the often higher-end choices of wine on offer, and, ultimately, they liked the quality they were tasting in the glass. 

The restaurant owners and staff loved the fact that they didn’t have to toss half-used bottles of open wine that hadn’t sold, didn’t have empty glass bottles to recycle, and that their staff was more efficient now that the “cork popping” tableside ceremony was happening less and less often. 

But, as a home winemaker, what if you’re not planning on selling your wine like I do and therefore the above reasons to keg your wine don’t really apply to you? Rest assured there are still plenty of reasons for home winemakers to take their wine for a spin in the stainless container. So, if you’re not going to be selling your wine like I do and still want to know why you should have yourself a wine kegger, check out these compelling reasons: 

A glass of fresh wine every time, from first glass to last. 

  • Ever been to a restaurant, ordered a wine by the glass with which you are familiar, only to have it come to the table tasting tired, oxidized, and ho-hum? Chances are you were served from a bottle that had been open since yesterday, or worse, for longer! When you buy (or serve at home) wine from a keg, pushed out with an inert gas, you know the last glass will be as nice as the first. 

No oxidation and no cork taint.

  • Since there is no cork involved here there is no chance of cork taint from that source. Since you don’t have to worry about the integrity of a plug of tree bark, there’s less chance of air coming in from that source. Every glass tastes like you meant it to taste. 

Less “bottle shock”

  • Think about it this way . . . kegging up wine is more likebottling in “large format” (3- to 5-L) big bottles than your standard 750-mL model. The smaller the vessel, the larger the ratio of oxygen-to-wine. I believe that bottle shock is very much about big slugs of oxygen getting into your wine and then chewing its way through it as it “figures itself out” (I know, that’s a touchy feely way of putting it, but forgive me). By packaging in bigger vessels, you lower that oxygen-to-wine ratio and therefore the oxygen-equilibrating blowback of bottle shock. 

It’s the “green” choice — massive reduction in carbon footprint compared to bottles

  • This is a reason that everyone can get behind! 
  • Reusable kegs can be used for 30+ years.
  • No waste to the landfill: Each reusable steel keg saves over 2,340 lbs. (1,060 kg) of trash from the landfill over its lifetime (source: www.freeflowwines.com).

To get you up to speed on the (limited, I promise!) gear, I really recommend you check out Tim Vandergrift’s excellent piece “Kegging Your Wine” at our website, (https://winemakermag.com/technique/1408-wine-on-tap). He really breaks down the details for you and walks you through the process. Probably the easiest way to get started is to use a Cornelius keg, a.k.a., “Corny keg,” as Tim suggests. If you can borrow some of the set-up bits and bobs from one of your brewing friends, that makes it even easier and more affordable. Kegging wine can have a ton of benefits . . . and you don’t need to invite a gang of friends over to

Response by Alison Crowe.