Another Wine Sampling Option

'Clean room' technology puts wine into miniature wine bottles

by Paul Franson
TastingRoom Seghesio bottle
Seghesio sent a six-bottle 'kit' of 50ml samples to some of its
top customers.

Healdsburg, Calif. -- Following closely on the heels of an announcement by Crushpad that it is producing 50ml test tube-like wine samples, TastingRoom Inc. announced a service producing sample bottles of similar size, but shaped like miniature wine bottles. Seghesio Winery, the first announced customer, is using miniature six-packs for providing samples to retail and restaurant accounts as well as wine club members.

TastingRoom’s founder, Tim Bucher, says his format better preserves the wine and is preferred by wine lovers in consumer research. He adds that his product is designed for high volume applications while the Wine in Tubes (from Verrerie de Haute Précision, a French company) product used by Crushpad is most suitable for lower-volume applications. Bucher also claims that using his packaging service in volume will be much lower in cost.

Aside from the difference in format, Bucher claims his company’s filling and sealing process’ new, patent-pending T.A.S.T.E. Technology (Total Anaerobic Sample Transfer Environment) preserves wine integrity, enabling wineries to deliver a “perfect pour” and allowing customers to taste and experience wines as if they were sitting at the tasting room bar.

TastingRoom spent more than a year developing the T.A.S.T.E. Technology alongside industry partners, top Napa and Sonoma wineries, academic enology scientists and Tragon Corp., a leading sensory evaluation company.

Using T.A.S.T.E. Technology, wine is transferred directly from larger bottles into the new, smaller formats in a sealed, zero-oxygen chamber. The production facility and equipment was designed from the ground up to be a high-volume, commercial solution.

Bucher, who has both high-tech and beverage backgrounds, compares the machinery he had developed for filling as comparable to the “clean rooms” used in semiconductor manufacturing. Bottles or other containers are transferred to the oxygen- and particle-free atmosphere for filling through air locks like those used in chip plants. The small glass bottles exit through an air lock, too. He adds that the filling equipment was very expensive to develop.

Bucher says, “Everything we’re doing on the production side is focused on 100% quality delivery, making sure that a winery can be as proud of the 50ml samples as they are of their original-sized bottles.”

Most customers so far have chosen to fill the small bottles from existing 750ml bottles, but the process also can accept other formats, including bulk vessels.

The company devoted considerable effort in deciding on the format for the bottles. “We tested formats with 1,000 consumers outside the Bay Area to make sure there was no bias.” This sample included 100 in formal focus groups. They tested various shapes and sizes. “The American consumer overwhelmingly wanted the samples to look like wine bottles.”

He says among the test bottles were the tubes, which have been used in France for samples for more than a year by 50-plus wineries and distilleries.

Bucher says the company is targeting branded, well-known wineries for the sample packaging. These wineries like being able to supply the perfect samples (1.6 oz.), rather than opening full bottles for samples at restaurants, distributors or retailers. Some also are offering the mini-bottles to entice wine club members who hesitate to buy expensive wine in today’s economic environment. “Consumers love 750ml bottles, but they want to taste the wine before buying,” Bucher says. Some wineries also intend to offer them as gift sets in their tasting rooms, and some wine course producers are considering them as well.

Seghesio Vineyards is the first winery to work with TastingRoom and its T.A.S.T.E. Technology to decant, package and ship packaged tasting kits of their top wines and upcoming varietal releases.

The first packages were delivered to a select group of customers and featured the 2007 Cortina Zinfandel, 2007 San Lorenzo Zinfandel, 2007 Old Vine Zinfandel, 2006 Omaggio, 2005 San Lorenzo Petite Syrah and the 2004 Aglianico.

These tasting kits also are being shipped through the wholesale channel to facilitate wine presentations at top retail and restaurant accounts.

“This is something my family and I believe will be revolutionary for the wine industry,” says E. Peter Seghesio, CEO and winegrower, Seghesio Vineyards. “We’re excited to be the first winery to bring our tasting room experience directly to our customers, as well as to be able to work with our distribution partners across the county to deliver new releases to top restaurant and retail buyers nationwide. With so many wineries making account calls to the trade, the luxury of giving top buyers the opportunity to taste our wines in a kit form at a time that’s most convenient to them is a great advantage. The marketing and sales uses and possibilities for this type of product offering are endless."

TastingRoom Inc. is based in Sonoma County, with offices in Silicon Valley, Napa Valley and Paso Robles. For more information on Tasting Room, Inc. or T.A.S.T.E. Technology, visit tastingroom.com  or e-mail info@tastingroom.com.





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