Vinfusion itself is a series of pipes, pumps, sensors and controllers that are designed to sit below the counter of a high-end bar or in a rich person's kitchen. Mounted into the tabletop is a tap that's connected to a conical centrifuge that rolls down toward the pouring spout. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Sat beside the Vinfusion tap is a tablet with an app that lets you pick a wine to match your menu or customize one yourself. Should you opt for the latter, you'll be shown three volume sliders that let you choose between light and full-bodied, soft and spicy, and sweetness. Each one is selected by drawing your finger left or right, and when you've made your selection, you hit the pour button.
Lurking inside Vinfusion's guts are four reservoirs of red wine: a Pinot Noir, a Shiraz, a Merlot and a red Muscat -- a dessert wine that provides the sweetness. When the particular mix is determined, the liquid is pulled up into the centrifuge via four small nozzles in the lid. The mix is then spun around to be blended together and aerated in a nice piece of theater before rolling down into the glass below.
Wine-blending machines aren't a new invention, but Cambridge Consultants' researchers believe that they have uncovered the secret to identifying the elements of taste. That way, they can produce a blend on demand that will theoretically satisfy anyone's palate. Although it's worth noting that certain types of wine snob get very tetchy around the notion of blended wines -- which they see as a cheapo affront to grapekind.
I wanted to try and get a nice wine for day drinking; a medium-bodied, reasonably dry wine, and the system said my selection was close to a Cabernet Sauvignon. The end result, however, came out a little bit more like a Pinot Noir -- thinner than I was expecting with a very strong ethanol-y kick at the back. But that shouldn't take away from the fundamental soundness of the project, which seems to be quite compelling at first blush.
Cambridge Consultants is a big freelance R&D outfit, a privately-owned mad science factory that sells its ideas to big-name tech companies. It's looking to perfect Vinfusion and sell it on to a third party that can commercialize it for the world. It's not just red wine that it could be used for, since it'll work with any form of blended liquid, from white wine all the way through to customized perfumes. It's not too expensive either, with the components only costing a few thousand dollars at most.
It's not the first time that the firm has dabbled in the food and drink space, either, having released Té, a tea machine that brewed a stunning cup of chai. The business then turned its attention towards ales to develop Hoppier, a smart beer tap that produced dry-hopped ales in the style of an espresso machine. Unfortunately, neither of those devices were picked up by industry, and are currently languishing inside the company's archives. Let's hope that Vinfusion doesn't suffer the same fate.
* That's a $500 word for "being a wine geek." Told you wine was unnecessarily intimidating.