Grab a jug and fill ’er up.
These liter-sized bottles, ready to be loaded with fermented grape juice, can be found in the tasting room of Revolution Wines on 28th and S streets. And if all goes to plan, this jug program will be to local wine as growlers are to craft beer.
Revolution Wines launched its “Renew” bottle program April 25. The process goes like this: Pay $25, get a liter-size bottle filled with wine, and when that’s tapped out, bring back the bottle to refill for $20.
The idea for a reusable wine bottle program has been brewing for over five years with Revolution Wines co-owner Joe Genshlea. While the thought of jugged wine might conjure images of supermarket brands on the cheap, it’s actually a time-honored practice in wine history. Wine merchants in the late 19th century often kept barrels of wine in the store, and customers would simply come in with a bottle to be filled.
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“It’s the way it used to be done, and in Europe it’s really common,” said Genshlea.
Andis Wines of Amador County offers a reusable bottle program via 1-liter carafes, but the practice is still fairly rare throughout the greater Sacramento area.
Local wine has a long ways to go compared to beer with refillable bottles. Growlers have become a fixture of local beer since the craft brewing renaissance over the past few years. These refillable jugs can hold up to a half-gallon of brew, and some local producers, such as Track 7 and New Helvetia Brewing Co., offer clubs where customers can get their growlers refilled throughout the year for a one-time fee.
The premise is basically the same for both beer and wine. Reusable bottles show a commitment to recycling, and for the customers, often come with a discount if they are buying the beverages in a bulk amount. A 1-liter jug of wine holds the same as a 750 ml bottle, plus an additional two glasses or so.
But creating a growlerlike program for wine doesn’t work quite the same way as beer. The production methods between the two beverages are very different, with brewers able to create batches of beer within just a few weeks. Creating wine takes much more time, with some reds often requiring up to a year of barrel aging before they’re ready for sipping.
For Revolution Wines, there are also some added expenses for the labor to clean and fill jugs, and for purchasing additional stainless steel kegs.
“There’s a lot of logistics behind it,” said Genshlea. “We have to figure out first how much (of the annual production) goes into bottles and then the (reusable bottle) program. We also weren’t sure if people would take to the wine. There was a risk involved to see if people would accept wine in a refillable bottle.”
But so far, the “Renew” program is off to a promising start. According to Craig Haarmeyer, Revolution’s winemaker, the winery sold 60 jugs during the launch on the weekend of April 25. No membership is required.
The first wine going into the jugs is a red called “Sacteaux,” a riff on French wine that contains a blend of Sacramento County-grown malbec, cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot and more.
“It’s a dry, medium-light-bodied red wine that’s great for food,” said Haarmeyer. “It’s expensive to produce wines here, but we’re hoping that we can offer a wine for a reasonable price that’s considerably higher than the quality you’d find at the grocery store. It’s patterned after the traditional European countryside winery, where you can get quality wine for a reasonable price.”
Haarmeyer says a jug of “Sacteaux” should keep fresh for up to five days. He recommends keeping it in the refrigerator or in a cool corner for optimal shelf life.
Plans call for the reusable bottle program to include eight different wines in the next six months, with prices varying depending on the kind of wine being made. A pinot noir made from Sonoma Coast grapes is already cued up for the program, and white wines are also expected to be jugged as well.
“We didn’t know what to expect, to be honest,” said Genshlea. “But we have plans right away to grow it. We think it’s a win-win.”
Call The Bee’s Chris Macias, (916) 321-1253. Follow him on Twitter @chris_macias.