Time for wine? Swiss turn to the keg

By Nicki Bourlioufas

New research conducted in Switzerland reveals that storing wine in kegs can significantly reduce the costs of distributing wine from wineries to on-premise outlets, cut carbon emission and costs. And the high-spending Swiss are happy to embrace a more sustainable wine storage solution.

In a collaboration between CG Industry, the IFV (The French Wine and Vine Institute), the School of Oenology and Viticulture of Changins, Bibarium, the Swiss Cantons of Vaud, Geneva and Neuchatel, and the Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL), the Ecofass-Vin wine in a keg solution has been studied and tested in the high spending Swiss wine market.

Stephanie Pougnet, assistant professor at EHL, has researched key wine storage and has found that the Swiss keg wine solution benefits all stakeholders in the wine value chain. She summarises the initial results of her research here.

Source: EHL

“In Switzerland, one 20 litre Ecofass keg of wine managed by Bibarium eliminates 26 empty wine bottles, corks, labels and cardboard boxes from being recycled at high costs due to water use or going to the landfill,” she writes in a recent summary of her research.

Several Swiss winemakers including Stéphane Gros and producer cooperatives such as the Cave de Geneve store wine in kegs. On-premise outlets confirmed to Pougnet that they are saving money, with fewer partially consumed bottles and less corked wine. Using the kegs also saves on storage space and requires less handling by servers.“The market studies we conducted at EHL show that 96% of wine consumers are in favour of keg wine served on tap, for one reason in particular: its sustainability. Restaurateurs and caterers are ready for keg wine, provided that their consumers are,” says Pougnet.

“More precisely, 64% of restaurateurs and caterers are in favour of adopting wine on tap, and for one reason especially: overall economic savings.

“Why? No more corked, spoiled or oxidized wines. No more wine spoiled or wasted due to wrong manipulation in bottling or pouring processes.”

Other benefits include less stealing of wine by staff as a keg of wine is too big. Importantly, taste and quality conserved for up to four months, compared to a few days in a bottle.

“As a result, keg wine on tap has been raising strong interest from Swiss restaurateurs and caterers, helped by local TV and radio media, and has even reached a worldwide audience in Europe, Latin America and Asia,” says Pougnet.

Keg wine not only saves wine producers money on packaging, but it has a much lower carbon footprint than bottled wine. In Australia, wine can be found in some large pubs and hotels, and a few restaurants too have installed wine on taps to reduce waste and save money and space.  TAP WINES, for example, makes the wine and installs in on tap in restaurants around Australia. In Italy, it’s common to be served the local house wine from a tap, including sparkling white wines.

Swiss swallowing wine

The Swiss are big wine drinkers, even more so in COVID-19, at the expense of other liquor products.

EHL and Ecole de Changins, as well as the European Association of Wine Economists, have just conducted a joint research project sponsored by HES-SO, to understand how the pandemic has impacted wine consumer behaviors. To the detriment of beer and spirit, findings show that people living in Switzerland have consumed more wine during than before the confinement, especially at home thanks to their personal cellar.

Switzerland is the fourth biggest wine consumption per capita in the world, according to some reports. Per capita, the Swiss drink more wine than people in Austria, Greece, Germany, Australia and the USA and lag only Portual, Italy and France, in that order. And they spend a lot more than anyone else since they have a lot more money. They are premium wine drinkers.

Wine is Switzerland’s no.1 alcoholic beverage: 80% of Swiss aged 18-74 drink wine. Nearly eight in ten people consume wine, compared to six out of ten for beer. 40% drink wine regularly, from once a week to once a day.

Switzerland’s 33,000 wine producers do not even meet a third of the wine consumption needs of the Swiss market, according to Pougnet.

Most Swiss restaurateurs (88%) sell more wine by the glass than they sell by the bottle; according to Pougnet, 61% sell between four to 10 different types of wines by the glass, which are most often local wines. This keg wine storage system can achieve rigorous hygiene and safety protocols and “better anti-COVID protection by reducing transportation by half, limiting delivery interaction and ensuring proper disinfection.”


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