Vinfusion is a personalised wine blending system that allows the user to design their perfect wine and then enjoy it instantly. Through the intelligent use of data, Vinfusion is also able to make wine recommendations based on the user’s tastes while collecting valuable market intelligence for the vendor.
Blending art and science
To deliver a truly personalised wine blending experience, we first had to understand the relationship between consumer behaviour and the chemistry of wine.
We began by collecting data on why consumers select a particular wine and how they describe its qualities. We then analysed the chemical composition of different wines in order to discover what imparts their most distinctive characteristics. Putting these two things together allowed us to create a unique flavour algorithm – a formula for the perfect blend.
Intuitive ‘design your wine’ app
Using our expertise in user experience and user interface design, we developed a simple app that allows the user to specify their perfect wine based on familiar characteristics – light to full-bodied, soft to fiery and dry to sweet. This intuitive interface, mixed with our flavour algorithm, allows Vinfusion to then dispense the perfect blend.
Based on these preferences, the app is also able to make a personalised recommendation – for example, “If you like this blend, you should try a Rioja.” In this way, Vinfusion encourages consumers to explore the world of wine and equips them to make more informed decisions in the future.
Vinfusion is about more than just delivering the perfect glass of wine for any dish or occasion. Powerful data capture and analysis capabilities – including facial recognition software that recognises consumers’ reactions to their chosen wine – allow Vinfusion to record which wines are more or less popular and which blends are most and least successful.
This opens the door to deep insight linking consumer preferences to factors like location, time of day, concurrent food promotions and even external influences such as the weather.
Form and function
Vinfusion’s dispense hardware is capable as well as eye-catching, efficiently blending and aerating the wine simultaneously. The novel valve-free system is both hygienic and low maintenance, while its sleek design and illuminated blending chamber add an element of theatre to the experience.
The Vinfusion project uses technology to address two key challenges that businesses face – firstly, delivering new and engaging experiences to the consumer and, secondly, gaining a better understanding of consumer behaviour.
The elegant design of the dispense unit incorporates several practical features such as the aeration of the blend in the mixing chamber and valve-free operation.
The control app provides an intuitive way to select a wine while, using off-the-shelf technologies, we can observe and interpret customer reactions at the point of dispense.
Making Vinfusion a reality required input from a disparate array of disciplines. We brought together experts in dispense, mechanical and electrical engineering, fluid handling and UX design to create not just a product but a complete experience.
Understanding the consumer
To understand consumer behaviour, we ran more than 160 tasting sessions, for which many of our own staff willingly volunteered! This yielded a huge amount of very noisy data – inevitable when dealing with something as subjective as taste – which required deep analysis to extract meaningful trends.
Developing the formula
Wine is a complex beverage – the type and blend of grapes, the geography, vintage, body and fruitiness all contribute to the flavour. And while consumers’ perception of flavour may be linear (for example, sweet to dry), chemical composition is not. A dry wine and a sweet wine blended in equal measure will not produce a wine in the ‘middle ground’ between the two. The subtle aroma compounds that give wines their character can be easily obliterated during blending if unsuitable combinations are chosen.
We used gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) to analyse the aroma compounds in dozens of wines in order to find compatible varieties to blend. Then, through tasting panels and statistical data processing, we were able to determine the ratios of our ‘Eigen Wines’ needed to produce distinctive and even steps in flavour throughout the flavour space.
Delivering the demonstrator fast
Vinfusion was little more than an idea in July 2016. With the aim of presenting a fully functioning demonstrator at an event in November, we quickly assembled a team of chemists, physicists, mechanical, electrical and software engineers, fluidics experts and user experience (UX) and product designers.
All data collection and market intelligence gathering was complete by mid-September and, by early November, Vinfusion was ready to dispense – that’s just four months from concept to demonstrator.
Tales of the team
“One of the most important aspects of the project was developing our flavour space. Depicted as a ‘cheese wedge’, it shows how different concentrations of each chemical affect flavour. Our algorithms then work out how much of the three 'Eigen wines’ - chosen for being rich in a specific flavour chemical - to blend with a fourth base wine to reach a specific point in the flavour space.”
Steve Thomas, technical review
“The valve-free design allows the wine to be blended and aerated with zero impact on the system design, as well as minimising contamination from one blend to the next.”
Andrew Stratton, technical authority
“We designed the form of the chamber to provide the same engaging aeration experience from a small taster through to a large glass."
Rosie Wells, product design
"250+ chemicals combine to give each wine its distinctive 'nose'. We used a solid-phase-micro-extraction process to capture tiny amounts of the flavour compounds and used GCMS analysis to create a unique profile for each wine. This data was then combined with data on the sugar content and acidity to guide the blending process."
Chris Rosser, analytical engineer
“Our taste buds are very good at detecting the presence of different chemicals but are less discerning when it comes to judging relative quantities. As low percentages of sweet wine are introduced into the blend, the perception of sweetness increases quickly but then levels off after around 25%.”
Steve Thomas, technical review
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