Ordering wine by the glass has its hazards. You could be getting the last bits of a bottle opened a few days ago or you might get a tiny pour from a rushed bartender. The solution is the Enomatic, a high-tech dispenser that pushes out accurate pours and fills the empty space in the bottle with nitrogen or argon gas to prevent spoilage.
Enomatics have become fixtures at several bars, wine shops and restaurants to offer a try-before-you-buy experience, but restaurants usually keep their Enomatics behind the bar. Only one restaurant we know of, SD26 in New York, allows you try a little of this and a little of that all by yourself. You walk up, hold out your glass and pay for what you pour for yourself.
The front of SD26 is a massive bar area containing three Enomatics, eight wines in each; you pay by the small (1 oz.), medium or full-glass pour. And the selection is superb. On our recent visit, one Enomatic contained a 2005 Barbaresco, a 2005 Brunello di Montalcino, a 2004 Barolo, a 2007 Gevrey-Chambertain and a 2000 Aglianico from Campania. The 1-oz. pours range from as little as a couple bucks up to $12 or more--still a small price to pay before committing to a triple-digit bottle price. In the main dining room, there's a wine list with about 700 selections--handed to you on an iPad that's easy to navigate.
In all, it's a refreshing approach to wine selection and education. Then again, some people prefer an old-school restaurant wine experience, tastevins and all. But you tell us: Walk up to a machine and decide for yourself what wine to drink, or keep it all in the hands of humans? Share your opinion below.