I'm no wine snob. Heck, my familiarity with wines doesn't extend much past knowing the difference between reds, whites and pinks -- excuse me, rosés. (Whatever.) And even if I find a wine I like, discovering similar brands or flavor profiles is an infuriating hit-or-miss process. Luckily, a forthcoming "smart" bottle system from Kuvée promises to take the frustration out of finding new wines. I recently tried out a prototype bottle for a weekend. Here's how it went.
The Kuvée bottle system is a two-part affair. The device itself stands roughly a foot tall, is slightly larger around than a standard 750ml container and features a large, full-color LED touchscreen where the front label should be. The bottle itself is hollow and charges on an included docking station. Really, it's more of a "smart sleeve" for the system's aluminum-clad refill canisters. You simply unscrew the twist cap from a refill, slide the bottle over it and click the two together. The bottle features a proprietary spout mechanism that prevents air from getting into the refill canister. This is meant to keep the wine fresh for up to a month. What's more, it allows you to crack open multiple bottles to taste and try without the worry over whether you'll be able to finish it before the wine turns.
The Kuvée's digital features are no less impressive. When you insert a canister of wine into it, the front touchscreen recognizes what it's pouring and displays a slew of pertinent information about it. Not only will the label automatically appear, but users can scroll through information about the vintner, taste profiles and food-pairing options.
All this information is pulled from Kuvée's servers via an onboard WiFi connection. Kuvée's co-founder Vijay Manwani says that the system will eventually offer a Netflix-like recommendation engine that suggests similar wines that you might enjoy. Additionally, if you find a wine you'd like to try, you'll be able to order it directly through the bottle's interface. (Of course, you'll need to use a laptop or mobile device to initially set up your account.) Unfortunately, neither of these features was active on the prototype I tested, which is a shame, because they're pretty central to the whole system.
Do you want to be the schmuck who blows two Benjamins on this thing only to have the company fold, thereby rendering the entire system useless?
Given how early a prototype I tried -- it won't launch until October, and even that will be limited to just California and Massachusetts -- there are still some lingering questions regarding how viable the system will be. For one, it only accommodates wine in its proprietary refill canisters. As with a Keurig coffeemaker, there's no way for users to manually refill a bottle. That means your wine options are limited to what Kuvee sells. Granted, the company expects to have nearly 50 varieties at launch, but that's obviously just a fraction of what your local BevMo offers.
That, in turn, makes me question its long-term chances. This system is going to cost $200 for just the bottle itself ($180 if you pre-order), while refills are going to retail for $15 to $50. Do you want to be the schmuck who blows two Benjamins on this thing only to have the company fold, thereby rendering the entire system useless? I sure don't. We'll simply have to wait until October to see how things shake out.