I'll apologize right off the bat for being a horrible skeptic when it comes to these sorts of things. I thought I might be able to refrain from bashing this product that I'd never seen or experienced, especially as I was beginning the article about it. But as I was reading about a new kiosk solution for grocery store wine aisles that helps consumers find wines that they would like, I eventually got to the following description of the technology:
It was at this point that I was forced to throw up all over this idea. Now I'm all for helping shoppers connect with products that they will like. The premise behind this solution is a good one, namely that there's a dizzying array of choices available at your local grocery store when it comes to wine, and it's hard to be sure you're gonna get one you like unless you've tasted it before. But I would put hard cash on the fact that asking someone whether they drink diet soda, put cream in their coffee, and whether they tend to put salt on their food doesn't get you any closer to knowing what sort of wine to recommend to them.
"What kind of matches does the system make? An occasional wine drinker who heavily salts his food, puts plenty of sugar in his coffee and hates diet sodas would be matched with Beringer White Zinfandel, 2004 or St. Supery Moscato, 2004, an Italian wine. Someone who doesn't use salt, takes their coffee strong and black and drinks diet beverages would get a recommendation for B.V. Cabernet Sauvignon, 2001 and Franciscan Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon, 2000."
As someone with a good deal of experience in interactive design, especially for retail e-commerce, I can tell you that it's UNBELIEVABLY difficult to make good recommendations to people using an automated system, even if that system is driven by highly complex artificial intelligence. And that's true for something like shoes, or jewelry, which are both a lot simpler than tastes in food.
People's tastes are so subjective, AND so difficult for them to describe, that even the most elegant, multivariate, multi-step wizard can't begin to approach a solid recommendation, even if you do have some statistical data that correlates cream-with-their-coffee drinkers and White Zinfandel. Not to mention the added variable of food pairings, which can turn even the most accurate recommendation based on someone's personality or general food preferences on its head.
"But it's better than nothing," some people will claim. I completely disagree. People are better off just learning what they like by trial and error, or by asking someone knowledgeable for help.
End of rant. Read the full story.
A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. 2015 Roederer Award Winner.Learn more.
How to Help Lake County After the Fire Wine and Words in Three Volumes I'll Drink to That: Robert Bohr of Charlie Bird Vinography Images: Over a Barrel Warm Up: Sicilian Wine I'll Drink to That: Salvatore Geraci of Palari Vinography Unboxed: Week of September 27, 2015 Wine News: What I'm reading the Week of 9/27 The Lodi Zinfandel Revolution Continues I'll Drink to That: Master Sommelier Guy Stout
Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune