Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Virtually interesting

Tesco's announcement that its new "Virtual Wine Adviser" was proving an instant success (as reported in Just-Drinks) made me smile. At least six years ago I was invited to give a talk to the wine department of the Spar supermarket chain in Vienna. Visiting one of the chain's bigger stores (an immeasurably smarter effort than its UK counterpart) I was struck by a brilliant gadget in the wine aisle. Essentially it consisted of a bar-code reader and a computer screen. All you had to do was scan the code on any bottle, and up popped a page or two of information about its contents, ranging from where it came from to the dish it would best complement. I haven't seen Tesco's version yet. It may well be a lot more sophisticated than what I saw in Austria, but it probably doesn't need to be. The last tine I was in the Australian wine retailer, Vintage Cellars, it had its own clever low-tech way of providing information about its wines. Between the bottles, there were neatly printed narrow fact sheets to be torn off and carried home. Maybe that idea will be noticed and adopted elsewhere too. As Paul Theroux, the travel writer once wrote, to move between countries is to travel in time...


  1. In theory sounds like a great help to the customer. But hasen't worked nowhere. All these systems are too complex, provide too much info for the moment of purchase. Depends how much the customer is involved with the product. 85% look for a wine matching the specific food they already have in their trolley. customers in supermarkets or big wineshops like clear guiding by colors etc when not advised by a real person (which is rarely the case, but would make sense)

  2. I agree that it will be a minority thing - most wine being chosen and bought in 1 minute 20 seconds, or whatever - but I think it has potential among opinion formers (possibly men who've been dragged/sent to the store) who won't read columns in newspapers. And I don't think that food-and-wine-matching is actually what it's all about...