If a robot drank wine, this is the bottle it would come from.
So is this the future of wine? To answer that, we spoke with Kuvée’s Project Lead, drank from the smart bottle for a week, and asked a few independent wine industry experts if they would consider buying it.
How a smart wine bottle works
Kuvée is a smart wine bottle, but its biggest mission is to keep your wine from turning into vinegar in a few days. Using a unique aluminum bottle with a patent-pending valve on the top, it keeps wine fresh for up to 30 days at a time.
To activate and use the Kuvée, you insert a 750ml wine canister into the dispenser, which has a classy black and gray finish to it, complete with a capacitive touchscreen on the front, just like an iPhone. If a robot drank wine, this is the bottle it would come from. Once the can is inserted, the dispenser works like a regular wine bottle, but it never needs a cork. Using an accelerometer and microprocessor, it knows when you tilt it and will pour wine into your glass. The pour is a little slow, but consistent. When you’re done pouring, the special tilt-activated valve system reseals the can, preventing the remainder of the wine from being exposed to air, which in turn keeps it from going bad.
When you’re done pouring, you can read a short story about your wine and its vineyard on the touchscreen, and a few important nuggets of information, like its year, type, region, and alcohol content. This information is available for whichever wine you snap into the Kuvée, thanks to an identifying RFID chip located on the nozzle of each canister. It also lets you know the number of glasses remaining within each wine can and gives suggestions on food pairing and serving tips.
As you continue to utilize the Kuvée, the bottle itself will recommend other types of wine in the Kuvée collection, which currently consists of 48 wine brands, mostly coming from Napa Valley. If you’re interested in any of the recommendations, you can purchase the wine straight off the bottle’s screen, which makes it very convenient. The price of a wine cartridge is almost equivalent to the price of a glass at a restaurant, ranging from $15 to $25.
“We’re debuting with 48 wine labels. We have 12 winery partners that we’re going with and we’re looking to build out of that portfolio once the momentum gets going,” Ed Tekeian, project lead at Kuvée, told Digital Trends. “We’re looking to start with recognizable wines and recognizable wineries. Most, if not all, of the wines we’re starting with are from Napa Valley and we’re looking to expand into Northern and Southern regions of California. It is very much our desire to bring in European wines and sparkling as well.”
Kuvée does not have a subscription model yet, but Tekeian says the company is considering implementing one in the near future.
Should we wine, or whine?
For many, nothing compares to pulling the cork out of a bottle of pinot noir and pouring the wine into a glass. The authenticity that moment offers is one that Kuvée cannot replace, but for Jeff Hansen, veteran winemaker at Lula Cellars, it could mark the beginning of a new era in wine consumption.
If boxed wine will last six times longer, what problem is the Kuvée solving?
Others, like Fathers & Daughters Cellars‘ Guy Pacurar, don’t necessarily agree. “I think that people would want the flexibility to have whatever wine they wanted dispensed by the dispenser and not be limited to certain wines,” Guy told us. “I think the product is really cool, but for me, learning that the selection of wines are limited to the makers that are already selected, I think it loses its appeal to me, personally.”
Finally, we showed it to Alexander Clifford, wine director for New York City’s Box Hill restaurant, who thought that a market does exist for Kuvée. “I could see people who want a glass of wine or two … people who are single or somebody who doesn’t drink as much, go for a product like this.”
In our experience, pouring wine from the Kuvée feels just as natural as a glass bottle. But in a dinner environment, where you invite a couple of friends over and have a variety of Kuvée wines to serve, all in aluminum cans with stickers for labels, the setup automatically looks a lot less elegant. Having to regularly recharge the device also takes away from the experience — though it will pour wine even if the battery dies. Our bottle mysteriously died in the middle of a presentation, prompting us to postpone while it charged via Micro USB for a few minutes.
The merits of a 30-day shelf life
Though it’s a huge improvement over re-corking a bottle, Kuvée’s 30-day shelf life doesn’t completely eliminate pressure on those who don’t have the desire to drink wine every day. You’ll still need to drink it sometime soon.
While speaking with Alexander Clifford, we learned that there is already a perfect solution for keeping wine fresh for up to six weeks: buy it in a box. Boxed wine greatly reduces oxidation while dispensing thanks to its vacuum-sealed plastic bag container, and it typically lasts up to 6 weeks. This begs the question: If boxed wine will last six times longer, what problem is the Kuvée solving? We can only think that it’s for those who want their wine to last longer, but cannot bear the thought of buying their wine in a box, though Clifford told us it’s not all Franzia. Many great wines can be bought in a box.
A helluva first pour
As of this writing, the Kuvée has already broken its $50,000 goal on Indiegogo after just a few hours on the crowdfunding website. This is on top of the $6 million in funding it has already secured.
The $180 deal is sold out, but you can pledge about $200 to pre-order a Kuvée Smart Bottle, which will ship with a starter wine package of four cartridges. The first batches will ship to California and Massachusetts residents in December 2016. The company intends to ship to New York, Oregon, and Washington a few months later. Their goal is to eventually reach all states that allow Direct to Consumer shipments.
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