Very early on, the family-owned wine growing business “Weingut Müller” from Krustetten in Austria recognized the benefits of KEGs as a packaging for their wine. That was based on two features that spoke in favour of these containers but against bottles: on the one hand, reusable KEGs tie in with the company’s sustainability policy much more clearly, and on the other, certain technological features provide economic benefits – especially for restaurants and caterers, the winery’s main customers. As service providers have a keen eye for good service themselves and see this as a decisive foundation for a good business relationship, Weingut Müller chose SCHÄFER Container Systems from Neunkirchen to be their KEG suppliers.
The Müller family’s vineyard lies right in the middle of the village of Krustetten at the southern end of Austria’s Kremstal wine growing region. First mentioned as a vintner’s farm in the regional monastic archives in 1270, it has been run by the Müller family since 1936 and is now in the third generation. In that year, grandfather Leopold began the business with a vineyard area of 0.7 hectares. This was then extended to 110 hectares - first by father Leopold and then by the sons Leopold and Stefan - and cultivated within the constraints provided by the natural conditions. Meanwhile the wines have achieved notable successes, including 27 wines over the last 10 years entered in Austria’s toughest wine competition, the “Salon Österreich Wein”, which selects the 270 best wines every year in a multi-stage procedure. In addition, the “Weingut Müller” has won gold medals and achieved high scores at national and international wine awards, such as Falstaff, Austrian Wine Challenge or Mundus Vini, Decanter.
Sustainability is given great priority at the winery, especially in the ecological cultivation of the vineyards themselves. Resource-optimised cultivation practices, such as the many years of greening and the intensive care and observation of the vines, guarantee the vineyard steady growth in beneficial insects and increasingly healthy soil. In 2017, the new cellar saw the benefits of using their own spring water and the earth’s natural temperature regulation for the first time. In addition, the hillside location optimises work processes, because gravity can be used rather than pumps. The sustainability concept also includes the wood-chip heating and photovoltaic systems. All the vineyard’s wines are certified with the “Nachhaltig Austria” seal (Sustainable Austria).
This sustainability extends from the wine production itself to packaging. “Sustainability has long since made the transition from fashionable buzzword to serious entrepreneurial objective, which more and more winegrowers, but also restaurant owners, are currently pursuing. Landlords who used to buy wine in litre bottles are now choosing to purchase KEGs”, says Leopold Müller, who was instrumental in driving the change to KEGs. “Storing wine in KEGs rather than bottles eliminates wastage completely. And besides, there is no functioning deposit system. Reusable containers mean we can contribute to reducing waste levels.”
Müller, however, is convinced that reusable Kegs are not only the most sustainable option but also the one guaranteeing the best quality for wine in the restaurant and catering business. From the restaurant owner’s point of view, they offer numerous benefits. Airtight filling and gas dispensing keeps the wine fresh over a long period. The quality remains the same as it was when it was filled. At the same time, a KEG’s capacity is many times that of a bottle, which makes logistics easier. For instance, event organisers or hotel owners in ski resorts that are not easy to access often hit stock limits when deliveries had problems getting through. In some regions, this has led to bottles no longer being used at all.
For Müller, however, one of the most important benefits is the automatic retention of the respective beverage due to the fitting, which really comes into its own with automatic dispensing systems. “With this combination between automatic dispensing system, which dispenses a precisely defined amount, and the KEG fitting, our customers benefit from the more exact volumes served and consequently from improved accuracy when it comes to invoicing.
“KEGs are generally more attractive, can be given a more individual brand image and provide better quality. So, for the wine business, they are just perfect. But when it comes to the actual selection, you are spoilt for choice. As KEG suppliers, SCHÄFER Container Systems convinced us. Obviously, price/performance ratio has a role to play, but for us, it really was the service that tipped the balance and we are very satisfied with it. Customer support is always available and is now very familiar with our vineyard”, says Müller.
That’s why, for the last 3 years, the business has been purchasing its KEGs from SCHÄFER Container Systems directly. Since then, the company, a division of SCHÄFER Werke in Neunkirchen, Germany, has delivered several hundred classical SUDEX stainless steel KEGs to the vineyard. Müller: “It’s robust and because it’s reusable in a sustainable sense, it’s also designed to last. We chose the slim-line 25-litre version, because its 278 mm diameter means it also fits in the dispensing systems better.”