Harrods hails golden era of wine gadgetry
We are entering a golden age for wine gadgetry that will pique the interest of new consumers and help maintain the category’s future prosperity, according to a leading buyer.
Harrods has been selling the iSommelier, a product retailing at £1,299 and is designed to accelerate the decanting process, and expects many more interesting gadgets to hit shelves in the coming years.
Edward Gerard, wine and spirits buyer at the luxury department store, said: “The last 24 months have been some of the most exciting from a wine gadget and evolution point of view since the screwcap in the middle of the 1990s and we are only just touching the surface of what’s going to come in the next few years.
“These people with scientific and inventing backgrounds are interested in wine now.
“It’s exciting for people getting into wine. You can buy high-end Liebherr models and screwcap bottles for a fiver. The enjoyment of wine is getting exponentially more open to a wider market. I have a lot of prototypes on my desk and it’s very exciting.”
The iSommelier uses a trio of filters to create purified oxygen, which bubbles gently through a wine, supposedly speeding up the decanting process so that a minute in the machine is equivalent to an hour in a traditional decanter.
It has its critics, as The Times’ wine critic Jane MacQuitty, who sat next to OLN at a recent demonstration of the product, said: “It’s quite an invasive, nerdy thing and I wouldn’t want it in my life.”
But even she conceded, “I can see from a similar point of view that it works”.
Andrew Chapman, UK sales and marketing manager at iFavine, which supplies iSommelier, said: “We have done blind taste tests with so many people, and 50% of people select ours and 50% select one that has been decanted normally. They produce a similar result.
“I am not saying our machine is better than a normal decant but it produces a very similar effect in a much smaller amount of time.”
The product has sold around 2,000 units across the world since launching in September 2015 and has been a hit with restaurants. Heston Blumenthal was one of the first to buy it for The Fat Duck.
“It was actually designed for professional use, but we were lucky enough to be spotted by Harrods in October and we leapt at the opportunity and it has worked really well for us and for Harrods,” said Chapman.
Gerard said: “It’s not a solution for everyone but I feel it has a place and that’s why it gets a Harrods listing. It’s not a replacement for decanting or maturation, but it can sit alongside them.
“We wouldn’t have listed this if I didn’t believe it had a raison d’etre and it didn’t work. I was very sceptical when somebody left it on my desk to try. We tried it on three different wines – reds, whites, sweet wines – and I saw evolution on each wine and I saw how much people might use it.
“Taking away the price tag, it works. I don’t have the money to buy one but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t customers that shop in Harrods and around the world that wouldn’t use it. We have coffee machines upstairs and not a single one is cheaper than this.”