Lots of great things at the 2011 Earth Day Food & Wine Festival this year – char siu tacos from Porter’s Gourmet on the Go, homemade shortbread and blackberry balsamic reduction from Chaparral Gardens, only 1.75 pounds (yes, pounds) of landfill trash generated from the entire event …
Clearly, I could go on and on, but one of the coolest finds was Chamisal Vineyards’ Stainless Program, as in stainless steel wine tanks. Following a trend that’s really starting to catch inNorthern California, Chamisal (located in the Edna ValleyAVAof San Luis Obispo County) has introduced 5-gallon, re-useable kegs that hold about the equivalent of 25 750ml bottles of wine.
Yes, keg wine – get over it, this is definitely not swill – it’s Chamisal! Also, the design of the stainless tank can be gassed so that the wine stays fresh for up to three months after you tap your first glass. As Assistant Winemaker Michael Bruzus explained, “the consumer (most likely a restaurant unless an individual has a keg setup at home) will use their existing pressurized gas infrastructure for beer. We will come to the restaurant or bar and make sure the pressures are low enough to get the wines out of the keg without charging the wine.”
Nitrogen or argon are the best gases to use in this application. Though carbon dioxide will work, Bruzus noted that “the tricky part with carbon dioxide is if you use too much, you will inadvertently make the wine ‘spritzy’.”
Bruzus further justified the use of stainless tanks as offering not only numerous environmental benefits, but also cost savings in terms of packaging, waste and energy use. Each stainless keg represents …
25 fewer bottles in cases to be manufactured and shipped to the winery
25 fewer bottles to be thrown away or recycled if it had been bottled
2 corrugate paper printed boxes with inserts
50 fewer labels to be printed (front and back)
25 fewer screw caps to be manufactured and shipped
25 fewer screw caps to be thrown away or recycled if it had been bottled
The bottom line — “We are saving 30 pounds worth of material (post consumer waste) per keg!” he wrote.
Also, in terms of energy savings, “maintaining the wine in tank and filling kegs on demand saves an enormous amount of energy because the added thermal mass of glass and corrugate requires more energy to cool the same volume of wine in a tank or a keg.”
In addition, “the kegs are completely re-usable. Once you’ve emptied the keg, you simply affix a pre-addressed FedEx label to it, drop it off at a local FedEx store, and it is returned to us. When it arrives at the winery, we sanitize it and fill it back up.” Even with this system, shipping costs are reduced because a full keg of wine weighs 44 pounds as opposed to the 74 pounds that those 25 full bottles in cardboard cases would weigh.
Arguably, this treatment isn’t for every varietal, but it suits Chamisal’s existing production of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay very well. In fact, the winery was already producing a stainless-only Chardonnay available by the bottle!