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Virtual tastings, online classes, chatbot sommelier, and 'intelligent' wine lists
Earlier this month, my colleague Steven Loeb wrote about the role of AI in the wine industry with a focus on producers and retailers. Now, let’s look at some innovations in the wine-drinking space from the consumer side (I got the fun part in this one).
And I’ve got to start with virtual wine tastings! Thanks to Covid, the world has engaged in a ton more remote work and leisure activities than ever – and wineries and sommeliers jumped on the opportunity to keep their income flowing. When consumers don’t come to you, you take your product to them, else your business falters. So that’s what happened – experiences shifted online to various direct-to-consumer platforms, curbside pickup, and delivery.
The way it works is: the company ships a selection of wine to you and your co-tasters and arranges a video meetup. The meeting will be carried out similarly to what you'd expect at a tasting room: a sommelier will tell the history of the vineyard as well as the specific wine you are sipping and guide you through the tasting notes. Depending on the package, the wine may come in full bottles or as small as 2 ounce pours. The Zoom call can be private – just for you, with the team you had arranged the meetup for, or with strangers that chose the same tasting session.
Virtual tasting rooms are held by some vineyards like Duckhorn, online class platforms like Coursera and CourseHorse, and experience platforms like Virtual With Us, In Good Taste, Unboxed Experiences, and Airbnb, to name just a few. They promise teambuilding and making connections, bonding with friends, learning, and discovering new favorite products. Prices range from under $100 plus the wine to $500 or more, depending on the package and the company.
Moving along the innovations, a few words about the booming chatbots. With the rise of generative AI, wine retailers began incorporating ChatGPT-like programs into consumer experience, focusing on personalization. Taking into account a customer’s preferences, pairing options, and other nuances, a chatbot can converse with him or her 24/7 and recommend wines. The goal: a streamlined, automated experience and a satisfied buyer with an order to his or her liking.
Wine retailer K&L Wine Merchants launched its “AI sommelier” earlier this year. VP of K&L Brian Zucker recently wrote in a post that the machine is far from replacing “a seasoned expert who delves deep into understanding your palate, preferences, past favorites, and current desires.” However, it’s the machine that will immediately access 10,000 everchanging options in stock, record expert discussions of wine, train models, and reply at any time of day.
I don’t know how I feel about the AI-generated wine reviews, or any bot product reviews for that matter, but I would be curious to try a wine recommended by an AI sommelier. Here’s another startup in this space: Sommify AI, based in Finland, integrates AI chatbot into wine retailers’ platforms. One use case the company describes on its website is giving advice in-store via a mounted tablet on a wine to pair well with the client’s meal.
Meanwhile, restaurants using AI-powered solution from Alfred give consumers an option to access their menu with real-time changes. Alfred offers retailers a one-stop wine and spirits inventory management platform, an “intelligent wine list” that contains functions including stock reception and validation, simplified stocking and locations in the wine cellar, automated inventories, billing and order management, product rotation with the right timing, and operations analysis and purchase planning.
On the consumer side, that means an improved experience with digital access via mobile app, easy search, and product match by characteristics.
I don't know about you, but it's dégustation time for me.
Images used in part from: Rawpixel
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