Global Observer

Step aside, coffee maker. Make room for the wine machine.

Step aside, coffee maker. Make room for the wine machine.

Posting in Food | From Issue 17 May 5 & 12, 2014

PARIS -- A French startup is looking to let consumers sample the country’s best vintages at home with single servings, doing for wine what Nespresso did for coffee.

PARIS -- Put the capsule in the machine, push the button, and out comes your beverage at the perfect temperature as if poured by a professional. But it’s not your Nespresso machine serving up a shot of coffee. A French startup, 10-vins (Ten Wines) is launching a new home appliance that’s reshaping the way we consume wine while giving corkscrews a rest.

Called the “D-Vine” (pronounced divine), the machine decants individual glasses of wine, serving them at the perfect temperature by reading a microchip on the vial. Like Nespresso machines that have seduced the French, who make up 25% of the business’s profits, the D-Vine could be a way to revitalize the French market, allowing for more upscale experimentation with less risk, and without having to go to a wine specialist. It will debut at the end of this year in France, retailing for around $250 or so, and the business is eyeing the United States not long after.

While still a top producer and consumer of all vintages, France is slowly faltering on the wine market. Nationwide wine consumption over the past decades has steadily declined, with fewer than 17% of citizens consuming wine on a daily basis, compared to 50% in 1980, according to one study by France AgriMer, which follows agricultural trends. Other reports look to the fact that red wine consumption in China has surpassed that of France, even though per capita, the French still vie with Italians for top ranking.

But while the frequency of wine drinking declines, one study shows that French households spend around 25 euros more on alcohol than five years ago. The authors suggest the French are buying less but higher-quality bottles.

Looking to this increased spending, Nantes-based startup 10-vins is re-marketing higher-end wines known as grand cru. The company is looking at individualized portions, allowing for more experimentation and sampling for those who aren’t willing to invest immediately in more expensive bottles.

Cultural shifts are leading younger generations toward other drinks, according to private chef and culinary consultant Didier Quémener. Wine, he said, was traditionally the drink that French grandparents had with every meal, poured from bottles decorated with chateaux and flowing script.

But with a more cosmopolitan generation traveling further and experiencing more of the world, vodka and Red Bull or a rum and Coke are replacing Bordeaux and Beaujolais. Binge drinking is increasingly prevalent among students and wine is finding its way to the dinner table less and less frequently.

“France was a golden place where every wine was good – but the quality suffered because they did not have to produce good wine,” Quémener said. It seems that the industry has finally bounced off its laurels, taking steps to maintain the superior image of French wine.

Vineyards are hiring younger protégés to help attract those their own age, and fashionable trends have been bringing newer generations back to vintages. Design-heavy labels, organic varieties and new packaging are changing, or at least refreshing, the face of the French wine industry. “We adapt and we listen to the customers. If the wine is the same in the bottle but the label changes, who cares?” Quénemer said. Not least among the tactics is the new gadget by 10-vins.

The company, founded in 2012, currently offers 10cL vials of wine, allowing consumers to sample several varieties in the comfort of their own home, without having to purchase a whole bottle. Combined with online tutorials and advice via web chats and Twitter, the team of young, passionate wine enthusiasts is bringing French wine into the 21st century.

Thibault Jacousse, 10-vins cofounder alongside Jérôme Pasquet and Luis da Silva, said that the concept is a way to test more expensive wines without investing too much. “When you are at home alone or in a couple, it’s not always the right occasion to open a whole bottle,” he said, “especially if we don’t have the same tastes, like me and my wife.”

Repas 10-Vins.jpg

Vials are currently sold for as little as 1.90 euros ($2.64 USD) per 10cL, roughly one glass, with higher-end vintages retailing at 7 euros ($9.71 USD), all available through the company's website. While more expensive than buying a whole bottle, it’s cheaper than investing in a 60-euro ($83 USD) bottle that might disappoint.

“Today’s younger generations don’t have a wine cellar or buy bottles in bulk. They drink less wine but they are looking for the better ones,” Jacousse said. Single servings allow them to stock and taste different varieties on a smaller scale.

The D-Vine isn’t the first innovation for the wine industry. Canned wine, by Winestar, hit the French market in 2013. Flavored wines have also been placed predominantly on supermarket shelves, with grapefruit-flavored rosé making headlines in the same year.

While such changes, upmarket or other, may seem offensive to traditionalists (like these guys), for Quénemer, any way to sell wine is a win for the French market, which can’t afford to turn a nose up at technology or other innovations like the D-Vine.

“Maybe it’s a gimmick, but consumers have wine in their hands, and maybe it’ll encourage them one day to a new level and taste something more expensive,” he said.

Photos: Thumbnail: Rose Websdale/Flickr; Top and bottom photos, this page: 10-vins

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Bryan Pirolli

Correspondent (Paris)

Bryan Pirolli has worked for Conde Nast and Travel+Leisure and has written for EuroCheapo.com and Concierge.com. He holds a degree from New York University and is currently studying at the Sorbonne. He is based in Paris, France. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure