Electronic Sommeliers: The Future of Wine?

Why restaurants from New York City to Las Vegas are turning to the 'iPad sommelier'

Everything is high-tech, even ordering wine with your spaghetti.

New York’s SD26 is as digitally-sound a restaurant as you’ll find. This wine lover’s spot offers 24 wines by the glass, thanks to high-tech cooling dispensers. They also offer customers an electronic sommelier (along with a live one) to help choose wine for dinner. Their wine-tech menu is loaded with 1,000 wines.

SD26 developed their own platform when they opened the doors in 2009, but a Chicago-based company called Uncorkd developed customizable sommelier software two years ago and is selling it to restaurants nationwide. Some Four Seasons Hotel restaurants are using it, steakhouses in Vegas casinos are big on it, and even country clubs across the country are going the way of high-tech ordering.

Josh Saunders, the founder and CEO of Uncorkd, says the electronic sommelier is less intimidating for consumers and often helps them choose wines they might not normally order or wines they aren’t familiar with. They can punch in a menu item, and appropriately paired wines will pop up.

Saunders said the electronic sommelier is often used in conjunction with a real live one at super premium restaurants, but at upscale casual ones, where there is no sommelier, the Uncorkd tech may be the only wine help available.

"Sometimes it is just servers selling the wine, and often they’re suggesting the same five wines," he said. As a result, Saunders said the technology helps restaurants sell more and different types of wine, and their customers are spending more money on what they drink.


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