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Gov. Rick Scott may allow wine on tap in Florida

With a proposed law change, wine may be able to be sold in kegs for the first time in Florida since the Prohibition.

With a proposed law change, wine may be able to be sold in kegs for the first time in Florida since the Prohibition.

Tim Freed

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For thirsty patrons in the Roaring Twenties, a glass of wine wasn’t hard to find, despite the laws that made it illegal to sell. From the back rooms of barber shops and spaghetti houses to open saloons behind peepholes, underground establishments kept the giggle water flowing.

Even the vineyards found a way, selling dried grapes in containers marked with warnings to avoid storage in jugs for more than 21 days due to risk of fermentation. Was this a law-abiding measure or a reminder of the fruit’s winemaking potential?

But though glasses of wine transcended their legal taboo just after President Franklin Roosevelt took office, a vestige of prohibition remained in Florida for nearly 80 years.

Within a few weeks, wine may again flow from taps in Florida.

A Prohibition Era law that limits the size of wine containers sold in Florida could be modified with a bill in the coming weeks with a signature from Gov. Rick Scott.

The current law bans the sale of wine in containers greater than 1 gallon. But by July 1, wine could be available in 5.16 gallon steel kegs and sold on tap in local restaurants and bars.

“I think it’s way overdue,” said Rick Brown, a Winter Springs Commissioner and owner of multiple Tijuana Flats restaurant locations. “Florida has been lagging behind in its ability to do away with bottles altogether and actually serve wine out of a tap. I think it’s really going to catch the wine service industry on fire in Florida to have the ability to serve a fresh glass of wine every time.”

Florida is one of only two states in the nation – the other being Utah – that doesn’t allow wineries to distribute wine in kegs.

Lobbying for the bill earlier this year was Free Flow Wines, a California-based wine kegging company that pioneered premium wine on tap as a concept. With Florida prohibited from selling wine in kegs, Free Flow Wines saw an opportunity for future business in the Sunshine State.

“The state of Florida, being the number two wine market in the United States of America, is a very important market for all of our winery clients,” said Free Flow Wines founder and chairman Dan Donahoe. “All of these wineries are very interested in selling their wines on tap in Florida, from very large resorts like Disney to fine dining establishments like Luma in Winter Park.”

Donahoe stressed not only the economic possibilities that come with wine in kegs, but also the environmental role they play.

“The bill will allow a 5.1 gallon reusable keg into the state of Florida,” Donahoe said. “That will eliminate, as soon as that first keg is tapped, 26 bottles from the trash cans at bars, restaurants and resorts in Florida.”

“Multiply that across the number of kegs that each bar and restaurant will use, and it equates to an enormous green factor and savings on trash.”

The recent bill also caught the attention of Eola Wine Company, a wine establishment in Winter Park with a selection of more than 70 wines by the glass.

“I think it would be something unique to offer our customers,” said owner Scott Schrope.

“There’s a few of the white wines that would be great to have on keg. That would be fantastic.”

Eola Wine Company General Manager Matt Coltrin gave his outlook on the future regarding kegs of wine in Florida.

“Bottling costs for wine are hugely expensive, so I think, in a matter of time, you’ll start to see some of the more innovative wineries trying it out,” Coltrin said. “I don’t see it happening right away; it will take time to progress.”

“It’ll be interesting to see how it unfolds.”