Scan your way to the perfect pinot
Americans are drinking more wine than ever. But for those who need a little help, Wine Selector is on the way.
NEW YORK (Fortune) -- Call it the wine snob problem. You prepare a recipe out of a glossy magazine, but when you head to your local wine store (or for most Americans, your local supermarket) for the recommended 2003 ripe merlot with "soft tannins and a medium long finish," it's nowhere to be found.
Worse yet, you have no idea how to pick a replacement.
That's just the problem Kevin Dunleavy, 42, is trying to solve with Super Marketing Promotions.
The 20-year veteran of the food marketing industry had spent a whole career giving customers food and recipe information. But then he noticed the market beginning to change.
A 2005 Gallup poll showed wine overtaking beer in popularity with Americans. And according to British firm ISWR/DGR, the United States is expected to have the highest wine consumption in the world by 2008. At the same time, however, people are more confused than ever,
So Dunleavy created something called the Virtual Wine Selector and began testing the interactive kiosks in Meijer grocery stores this year, with a bigger rollout planned throughout the year.
Customers can scan in a bottle of wine they're interested in and receive not only the pertinent information about the wine itself - maker, flavors and so on - but also cheese and food pairings.
Or if they have a bit more time and an idea for dinner, shoppers can also use a touch screen to find suggestions for varieties of wine to go with the meat, vegetables or cheese they're serving.
The suggestions are all generic, and remote updates by the people at Super Marketing Promotions ensure that you won't ever be looking for a wine that isn't in the store. (As is so often the case with suggestions from well-intentioned, but invariably metropolitan morning shows and food columnists.)
Also in the works is the Virtual Recipe Selector, which will allow shoppers to quickly find recipes, print a shopping list and scan the labels of - for instance -packaged meat to get additional nutritional and other information.
For his part, Dunleavy stresses the Wine Selector's egalitarian aspects. "My background is marketing in supermarkets, and I'm not a snob," he says. "I like wine, but I might not know a lot about every label. If I find out, wow, I'm supposed to taste the vanilla, I typically enjoy it more. We're not trying to turn people into wine experts, just provide enough info for both the novices and the people who know a little more, those who want high-end wines and those who might want a drinkable jug wine."
And to that end, Dunleavy's picked some of his five favorite grocery store wines, in the $8 to $12 range, to share, along with some of the food and cheese pairings you might find on the Virtual Wine Selector.
Kenwood Sauvignon Blanc Lively varietal aromas of grass, fresh citrus and herbs with a slight taste of melon. Fresh and crisp, with lively body add a lingering finish. Best served chilled.
Food Pairing: Enjoy with salads of fresh greens and vegetables, light-sauced chicken, shrimp with pasta, and crab cakes.
Cheese Pairing: Chevre and Gouda pair well.
Little Penguin Chardonnay This tasty Australian Chardonnay has starlight brightness with light straw hues. The nose is refreshingly tropical with hints of melon and Hawaiian pineapple leading into zippy fresh Chardonnay fruit.
Food Pairing: Enjoy with shellfish, chicken, salads, and the fresh catch of the day.
Cheese Pairing: Soft cheeses such as Brie and Camembert pair well.
If you are a white drinker but are interested in trying red, start with Pinot Noir. Pinots are the lightest of the reds.
Pepperwood Grove Pinot Noir Garnet in color, this delicate pinot starts soft with fresh strawberry and Bing cherry fruit and finishes with rich plum, light clove and earthy tones.
Food Pairing: Enjoy with pan-seared duck breast in Asian plum sauce, salad of spinach and sliced strawberries with balsamic vinaigrette or a light chicken dish.
Cheese Pairing: Goat cheese and Brie pair well.
Cline Red Truck It makes you feel good -- just like that old red truck your granddad had...reliable, well-crafted, full of life...and great tasting too! A blend of Syrah with Petite Sirah and Cabernet Franc to give this wine its delicious dark berry and licorice flavors.
Food Pairing: Enjoy with barbeque, pizza and tomato based dishes.
Cheese Pairing: Strong cheeses such as sharp cheddar, Roquefort and Blue cheese pair well.
Benzinger Cabernet Sauvignon This wine is full-bodied, round, and intensely flavored of cherry, cedar, tobacco, toast, herbs, and blackberry
Food Paring: Enjoy this wine with grilled meats, beef tortillas, BBQ and decadently chocolate desserts.
Cheese Pairing: Sharp cheddar and gorgonzola pair well.
More from the Good Life series:
Wine splurges and steals: Six picks by chef Mario Batali.