Borough Wines: ‘Tap wines are booming – appellations need to catch up'

Imbibe Editorial

Imbibe Editorial

02 November 2018

Sales of tap wines are booming, but appellation labelling regulations could be preventing some of Europe's biggest regions from making the most of it, according to Borough Wines founder Muriel Chatel.

Benefits of tap wine:

  • Up to 25% cheaper than bottled wine

  • Less packaging and reduced transport requirements

  • Reduced carbon footprint

  • Keeps wine fresh, with no oxidation, cork taint or flat fizz

  • Serves wine at ideal temperature

Borough Wines began working on kegged wines for the on-trade two years ago. Since then, it has grown to have 22 wines on tap, is seeing 50% year-on-year sales growth, and expects to shift over 15,000 kegs (of 25l each) this year.

Borough Wines' founder Muriel Chatel
Borough Wines' founder Muriel Chatel

Chatel told Imbibe that consumer understanding of the benefits of tap wines has evolved considerably over this period.

‘Two years ago, we found uptake quite slow, but now we’re finding the market is ripe for it, and people really understand the benefits in terms of cost and sustainability,’ she said.

Moreover, where tap wines were once the preserve of entry-level house wines, she said Borough's customers are happy to look for grape varieties (such as Merlot and Touriga Nacional) or regions such as Vinho Verde. Organic wines, too, are gaining more traction.

‘Before it was house wine, now it’s six months on lees, within another two years I think you’ll be able to have those more elaborate wines, such as Sancerre and Chablis,’ she said.

For Christmas, Borough Wines is taking 40 kegs of St Emilion Grand Cru. ‘Of course, we’ll be restricted from calling it Grand Cru, but we can say St Emilion. Simliarly, you can’t call a wine on tap Gavi, you have to use the name of the grape,’ she explained.

‘Old-school appellations are protective about what you can put on the kegs and, in doing so, they’re losing touch with the modern consumer. Wine on tap is more than an innovation, it’s transforming the wine world.’

Top drops from Borough Wine

Xarello, Catalonia
Normally seen as part of a cava blend, Xarello is one of the underappreciated grapes of the world. It’s full-bodied, full of flavour and a little bit weird, so may not be to everyone’s taste, but this is a great food wine. It has undergone several months of fine lees ageing and battonage, which gives it a really smoky, reductive style. Rich stone fruits and earthy on the nose, it’s a mouth-filling, savoury wine that’s crying out for some tapas.

Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
While Xarello probably isn’t a crowd-pleaser, Kiwi SB definitely is.  This is the sort of wine you beg for in a blind tasting, as it couldn’t be anything else.  On the greener end of the spectrum, it gives the classic gooseberries and passionfruit along with some great bell pepper and pyrazine notes. It’s textbook-tart and tangy.

Merlot VDP
Cheaper stuff from the wider Bordeaux  region can be slightly naff, where the New World usually comes up trumps. Thankfully, this VDP manages to lock down the classic Merlot flavours in both a French and pleasant way. Aromas of bright red cherry and plum fruit, with a slight hint of earthiness, then a medium-bodied, fresh palate and a certain amount of complexity.

Touriga Nacional
Possibly the wine of the night at a recent Borough Wines tasting. This Portuguese variety was nearly grubbed up to extinction in the mid-20th century, but mercifully had a resurgence in popularity both at home and as far afield as Australia. This is a full-bodied, dark wine, with rich, ripe tannins, loads of black fruits and a long, concentrated finish.

Borough Wines, 020 8988 3157

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