At Tastings Wine Bar in Hong Kong, we were introduced to a new form of wine technology: the enomatic wine serving system. Enomatic technology can keep bottles of wine fresh for (supposedly) up to three or four weeks, which allows wine bars to keep a broad selection of unusual wines “on tap” as it were. Apparently it’s already been popular in Europe for years, but it was new to me. The enomatic machine removes the air from the bottle, keeps the temperature constant, and offers an easy way to serve the wine.
We were a bit mystified at first when we had to temporarily give up a credit card in exchange for a wine card. Then the staff explained the concept: we were to go up to a futuristic-looking silver and metallic machine with wine bottles lined up behind a glassed-in case, put our wine card in the slot, grab a glass, choose a wine, put the glass under the spout, and choose to try a sample, a half-glass, or a full glass of whatever we fancied.
The enomatic machine can be overwhelming if there are too many things you want to try. We first tried sample (very small) glasses of David Franz Eden Valley Riesling 2008 from Australia, which was fairly non-descript and flat, and a Willy Gisselbrecht Gewurztraminer Grand Cru 2004 from Alsace that was floral with notes of honey and quite interesting. Next up, we had a Pierre Usseglio Chateauneuf du Pape 2001 that had a hint of black cherry and some caramel, and was really nice and earthy and full-bodied. Then a Michel Ogier Côte Rôtie 2006 that was a Syrah/Viognier blend. It had integrated oak, vanilla, dark cherry, cassis, and prune flavours. Next a Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé 1997 from Chateau Pavie Maguin that had plum, stewed fruit, a bit of spice, black berries, chocolate, and tobacco. To finish it off, we finally opted for a half glass and had Napa Cellars Merlot 2007, which had notes of red cherry, dark chocolate, a hint of black tea, green olive, cinnamon, and vanilla.
As far as I can tell the enomatic systems were created by a company in Italy. In China they’re in Hong Kong and Shanghai, and there’s a popular enomatic wine bar called VinoVenue in San Francisco. They’re spreading across the U.S. and in Edmonton, of all place. I haven’t seen any enomatic wine bars in Montreal yet, but some research tells me that there are some enomatic systems installed here. I guess these places are keeping the enomatic technology behind the scenes so far, instead of billing themselves as full-fledged enomatic self-service wine bars. Maybe that’s because the use of enomatic technology in wine bars is controversial. It is a neat gadget, but it does take away a bit of the human element. The concept was initially very novel to me, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that I’d rather have a smaller selection of well-thought out wines that the server or sommelier can explain to me than a larger selection of wines that I have to go pour myself and that have been open for god-knows-how-long (while the enomatic technology keeps the wine fresh for longer than normal, there’s no way to tell how long the wine has been open).
Have you ever encountered an enomatic machine? What did you think?