“Wine on tap sounds gross.” If this statement sounds like it could come from your mouth, it’s worth reading on. One maverick wine bar is determined to change this perception by pouring damn good wine from a tap, at damn good prices.
Harry & Frankie (it’s also a bottle shop) opened in December 2013 on Bay Street, Port Melbourne. The bar is the brainchild of Tom Hogan – former wine buyer and sommelier for the Lake House in Daylesford.
While wine on tap is not new, what’s special about Harry & Frankie’s kegged wine is the commitment behind it.
This is evident in the bar’s exclusive wines from Dave Mackintosh (Arfion, Salo), Adam Marks (Bress), Pete Schell (Spinifex), David Bowley (Vinteloper) and Abel Gibson (Ruggabellus) – all past finalists of the Young Gun of Wine Awards.
Hogan and these producers represent a new wave in Australia’s wine scene, where wines are crafted in small quantities and push the boundaries of stylistic convention.
While wine on tap is seen by most punters as inferior to the stuff in bottles, there’s no reason for it to be. If it were, these guys wouldn’t bother. As Mackintosh points out, “Keg wine is sensible. The technology has improved. In the end, it’s just another vessel. It’s pretty much just like a bottle. But we achieve lower costs and a smaller carbon footprint to make the wine more accessible.”
On tap, Harry & Frankie currently offers a Yarra Valley pinot grigio by Dave Mackintosh and a Heathcote shiraz by Adam Marks. Both are very good wines with a lot of detail. And at $7 a glass, or $20 per 500-mililitre carafe, they are easily half what you would pay at a restaurant. “We wanted to offer a quality product at an entry level price,” says Hogan.
Marks’ Heathcote shiraz blends components that have gone into Bress’ Silver Chook and Gold Chook shirazes, which retail for $25 and $40 respectively. With no jagged edges, it’s an elegant and polished example of Heathcote shiraz fruit.
The Yarra Valley pinot grigio by Mackintosh is an exciting interpretation of the variety. It’s a great “session” wine: still so pleasing and intriguing at the end of the glass, you go back for another.
The whys and hows behind each winemaker’s exclusive offerings are different. In the case of Bowley, Hogan approached him specifically to make a riesling. While it comes from the same Watervale vineyard as his other rieslings, Bowley fermented the wine for Harry & Frankie as a separate batch from the start, and the off-dry riesling he came up with is sweeter than his Vinteloper rieslings. Bowley sums up why he went to the effort by saying simply that it enabled him to make another wine, “… and I love making wine!”
“We push forward with keg wine because we have consumers’ best interests at heart,” Hogan says. “We use our relationships to create wines of provenance and quality at a price that wouldn’t be possible if packaged conventionally – without the unnecessary costs of labeling, bottling and transport.”
There’s always resistance to change: a struggle between convention and new thinking. But Harry & Frankie is doing what’s best for the punters, even if the bar has to drag some people into the future. In Australia, we’ve seen the outcome of the initial tension between consumer perceptions and winemakers’ decisions with the whole cork/screw-cap thing. Good wine poured from a keg is the same. It will surely catch on if operators adopt the same commitment as Harry & Frankie has.