A couple of weeks ago, I went to Seeds and Chips summit, a fair about innovation in the food field. You know, the one that made Obama coming to Milan…
While I was wandering around, I noticed a stand with wine bottles and a display mentioning some "virtual sommelier". Attending the classes to become sommelier, my curiosity rose: how a job soliciting your senses, could be replaced by a software?
As I came closer, I got welcome by a warm and smiling person, probably below his thirties. I asked him a couple of questions and he started to illustrate the “reason why” of the project; how when you are in front of the shelves at the supermarket, you can feel lost among the variety and are not sure which wine will you like or would pair well with your meal.
I found the comment more than valid. I remembered myself, before gaining some expertise in the field, screening the label from the bottle during minutes and minutes to decide if it was a good bet or not. And since it practically never worked for me, I started to spend time in wine shops, always specifying my budget and asking for some advices...
But the thing is, even if you go to a wine shop, do you feel capable of describing the wine you like using the correct terminology of the field? Are you confident when they ask: do you like it with a lot of tannins, fruity, mineral, with spicy aroma? And last, do you feel disappointed if at the end, the wine does not match the typology of wine you expected/like?
This is why those young entrepreneurs came with the idea of simplifying the selection process of a wine by summarizing your taste preference via a wine character.
And all this, in less than 30 seconds. Simple test questions like “select your favorite salad”, “what would you get first for breakfast”, “what is your must seasonings” will determine your personal wine character via an algorithm.
Crazy isn’t it? Well, in order to test the algorithm, they collaborated with the neuromarketing lab of IULM University to see the stimuli response of people while tasting wines they like or dislike.
A week later, I was invited to a wine tasting session to get a demo.
I arrived at Cascina Cuccagna, an old farm downtown Milan, and got welcome by the team with a sparkling wine.
We got split into teams and asked to check our “profile” using their online tool. While tasting the first wine, we had to guess which wine character it could correspond to, using their diagram. In total, we tasted 3 different types of wine. The objective was to make us understand our own taste and see if it was corresponding to the character the test revealed. Their motto was: we want to put people's taste at the center and not the product.
Besides all the concept aspect, what I can say is that their wine tasting was organized in an entertaining way to make sure you have good time. They did not forget either a hint of education. The theme of this tasting session was “unexpected sparkling wine”. What does it mean? We tasted wines made of grapes you would have never guessed they could do sparkling wine with...(like Raboso, a local grape from Veneto, processed using a methodology similar to the one of Prosecco, but this comment may speak only to people from the field...).
Though, I can't prevent myself from being one of those persons that like to understand what is behind, in order to get convinced. But in that case it would mean understand how they built the algorithm... So I came to the conclusion I should order online one of their pack corresponding to my wine character, and see if it works or not.
And if not? Well on their website, they offer more than 150 bottles selected by their REAL sommeliers and do wine box delivery in Milan the same evening. Last, they have a wine & food pairing section.
Personally, I always congratulate people trying to simplify a complex thing to make it reachable for all.