Free Flow Wines saw the rising popularity of sparkling wines and the category’s particular challenges for delivering an optimal by the glass experience as an opportunity to expand the portfolio of services they offer, and their innovative work to create a sparkling keg program for wineries was recognized with a 2016 WINnovation Award.
Jordan Kivelstadt, Founder & CEO and Dan Donahoe, Founder & Chairman
“We had a lot of restaurants asking about sparking,” says Jordan Kivelstadt CEO and Founder at Free Flow Wines. “We’ve obviously been growing with still wines and been having a lot of success there. Sparkling on tap seemed like a logical extension, and we had wineries willing to play with it, so we came together and made it happen.”
Free Flow Wines uses a state of the art in-line carbonation system rather than the more traditional Charmat method and has also developed a set of draft dispense protocols for restaurant operators to ensure a perfect pour every time, with no foam and plenty of sparkle.
The wines are not full champagne level sparkling but in the frizzante range, which still requires three to four times the pressure of a normal beer keg and presented challenges for the perfect pour. Foaming at dispense known as flash point became a big issue, and temperature became an even bigger issue.
“The hardest part about it wasn’t getting the sparkling wine into the keg, it was getting it out of the keg at the restaurant. So we worked closely with our equipment partners and accounts to make sure they could successfully dispense the wine,” says Kivelstadt. “It was just working through that and finding the optimum balance, and that’s what we did.”
The Snooze Restaurants which offers mimosas and other sparkling wine on tap drinks as part of their brunch menu was one of the piloting partners, and now the Marriott and other have joined in offering sparkling wine on tap from Free Flow Wines.
Kivelstadt, however, is not content with the growth yet. “Next year wine on tap will represent about 1% of U.S. wine on premise consumption; our goal is 10% in ten years.”
Next year, Free Flow Wines will be launching a brand new sales and marketing effort focused on increasing the category to attain this goal, but they’re already working to help all their stakeholders be successful in the category.
“We started something we’re loosely calling the Free Flow Institute,” Kivelstadt explains, “it includes a quarterly state of the market report for our customers, where I host a live webinar and walk them through what’s happening in the marketplace and where we’re seeing innovation and trends.”
Free Flow Wines also offers monthly sales training webinars that they encourage everyone in the industry from restaurateurs to winery and distributor sales reps to join in, ask questions, and learn about how they can help continue to drive the category forward.
Even though they’ve been the standard bearer for wine on tap, their vision goes beyond wine on tap and relies on a company culture of innovation. Says Kivelstadt: “Our vision is to continue to drive innovative alternative packaging that improves sustainability and quality in the wine industry.
“To foster a culture where no idea is a bad idea, the first thing is to never say ‘no’ – at least initially. Then you’re constantly pushing people to innovate, pushing people to challenge themselves, and that’s really a big deal for us.”
That core vision and culture is driving Free Flow Wines to think beyond the keg. “You’ll see Free Flow do something next year that will extend our presence in alternative packaging and focus on our core aspects of innovation, sustainability, and quality,” says Kivelstadt.
The company is uniquely placed in the wine industry working with on-premise operators, wineries, and distributors. They listen to the feedback, find out what’s working and what’s not, and then pair that with solutions, develop ideas, and work with their partners to make them a reality.
“Being successful in innovation is about making sure you look at it from every angle. It’s that culture of innovation that encourages people to think outside the box, and then challenges them on those ideas, but doesn’t sink them,” Kivelstadt explains.
“We get asked all the time for off-premise solutions, and again just continuing to push really hard on innovation; we are exploring something that we think is in alignment with our core mission and a great off premise solution.”
By Kim Badenfort