It’s a little hard to find, but in an inconspicuous office in Fort Point, tucked in a loft above the Boston Button Factory, a local company has set up camp to forge a path toward a new future for wine consumption. Say goodbye to the cumbersome bottle – a full-fledged wine-on-tap system is about to take off.
At the Richer Pour office, there’s an inflatable unicorn perched above the door, overlooking a conference table and some spare equipment. For Brandy Rand, the company’s CMO and partner, it serves as the company’s mascot: a reminder that they’re working toward something unique.
“It’s like we’re selling a unicorn,” said Rand. “We’re changing the conversation, and we’re putting all the pieces together, but people don’t yet believe it, that it exists. But it does; it’s the unicorn.”
The pieces that Rand is talking about are all of the components that make Richer Pour’s wine-on-tap system a no brainer, or as she puts it, a “one-two-three punch.” Rand and her partner, company founder David Gordon, of the Waltham-based Gordon’s Liquors, figured out a way to get their quality wine (which is outsourced from vineyards in California, France and Italy) into a keg, and also how to install the keg and tap system into willing bars and restaurants. So far, Richer Pour currently boasts 150 tap lines that can be found on more than 50 bar menus in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and most recently, Chicago, a city that, Rand claims, has a more advanced wine-on-tap culture than Boston.
The idea for Richer Pour was born about a year and a half ago, when Gordon, a self-proclaimed entrepreneur, recognized a pattern was forming, and wanted to jump in on the action.
“I saw that wine on tap was becoming a trend and the more I looked into it, I saw that there was a sort of hole in the market,” said Gordon. Basically, the pair said that while everything on tap was a burgeoning trend in the bar industry, no one had yet figured out how to do it right.
So Gordon contacted a friend at a winery in California, bought up his extra Cabernet and Chardonnay, and put it in kegs. But once Gordon began to take the product to bars, he realized most didn’t have a wine tap line already set up – Richer Pour’s product operates through a different tap line system than the one that pours draft beer. The next logical step? Install the tap lines for them.
“It was really down and dirty,” said Gordon. “We were drilling through bars, putting in brackets and cold plates, it was a mess. But once we were bringing the wine, kegging the wine and then installing tap lines, no one was saying no. It was perfect.” Now, all of Richer Pour’s sales team knows how to install the equipment.
Richer Pour’s equipment is a major selling point for the company, along with the team’s ability to install it. The recyclable kegs hold 120 glasses, or three cases, of wine, and save a huge amount of space – a big deal for any bar or restaurant looking to house plenty of wine and craft beer. In addition, the cutback on materials and costs – glass, labels, corks, shipping – which were once built into the price of wine, have also proved a favorable selling point.
The next question, of course, is what the actual wine tastes like. In describing the quality, Rand refers to the company’s name, Richer Pour: “We’re offering a rich experience,” she said. “We don’t want to perpetuate the myth that things outside the bottle are inferior quality.”
Right now, the company has seven different varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and a “White Night” Rhone blend from California; Prosecco, Pinot Grigio and Sangiovese from Italy; Rosé from France, and Garnacha from Spain. The keg system ensures that every glass is of the same quality, as no air touches the wine. An individual glass at a restaurant runs between $8 and 10. According to Rand, the wines are approachable, perfect for an age when fewer people are waiting for a special occasion to pull out a bottle of wine.
And with a quality wine filling their kegs, Rand and Gordon’s mission is to get wine drinkers to “trust the tap.” Oftentimes, a change in format makes people skeptical: when companies introduced screw caps as opposed to corks, for example, there was a notable pushback from the community. But what they’ve found is that rather than skeptical, people are curious.
“They’re open minded, and they want to try it, as opposed to saying, ‘I would never drink that,'” said Rand. “That’s been surprising, but people are excited.”
Gordon added that the hurdle is getting people to actually try the wine, and that hasn’t been a hard hurdle to clear.
“They taste it, and immediately they’re over the fact that it came out of a keg. It’s about education,” he said.
Blue Dragon, the casual gastropub from Boston restaurateur Ming Tsai, was one of the first businesses to house Richer Pour’s wine (and now, they’re Fort Point neighbors). Sarah Livesey, a manager at Blue Dragon, said that they were sold by the company’s ability to extrapolate quality wine to a larger format, cutting costs and saving space in the process. Still, she had some concerns due to stigmas that often surround altering wine formats.
“I didn’t know how people were going to take to this,” said Livesey. “We thought people would be like ‘Oh, where’s the bottle?’ I didn’t know if that was going to exist, but I was pleasantly surprised. People’s responses have been great.”
Livesey believes that it’s a combination of the consumer’s open mindedness, as well as education. It’s no secret that anything-on-tap has been garnering buzz behind bars, and there’s a draw to being on top of a trend. Rand is also clear to point out the difference between a trend and a fad.
“Trends impact what’s happening in the community and in the world,” she said. “We’re doing our best to gain trust, because we’re paving the whole path [of this] whole new category. Trust the tap – we’re all about the tap.”
As Richer Pour expands to new markets, the team feels comfortable in knowing their buyers and their consumers, and they’re quickly gaining ground. The company just this week launched a boxed wine line, called the Tap Wine Box, available at Gordon’s, Kappys, Wine Emporium and Yankee Spirits, which sell for $24.99. This summer, the tap system will be installed at the Comcast Xfinity Center in Mansfield. And keep looking out for Richer Pour to pop up in new bars, restaurants and cities.
“Our understanding of what consumers want and what restaurateurs want out of wine on tap is razor sharp,” said Rand. “We’re at a great point, and we’re gaining a lot of steam and momentum.”
Images via Richer Pour