New device gives wine lovers a plum experience

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CNBC.COM – Many say necessity is the mother of invention, but frustration can be a strong source of motivation too—at least for one wine lover who decided to take matters into his own hands.

When David Koretz got home after a long day of work, he wanted to relax with a glass of wine. If he opened a bottle, though, that meant drinking all 750 milliliters, or pouring one glass and letting the rest oxidize. Neither seemed like a great option.

“Most nights, I don’t want five glasses of wine,” Koretz told CNBC in an interview. But he didn’t want to dump $50 or $100 wine down the drain either. “I wanted to be able to hit a button when I got home and get the perfect glass of wine,” he added.

There was no device on the market that could give him that experience, so Koretz decided to create it himself.

Enter Plum, Koretz’s $1,499 invention that doubles as a countertop appliance and the ultimate tricked-out wine storage. Plum lets wine drinkers have a “by the glass” experience: When consumers place a bottle in the device, Plum uses cloud and artificial intelligence technology to identify the label, and automatically set the perfect sitting temperature for each bottle.

Koretz said the company has raised nearly $10 million to date from lead investor Vinod Khosla, of Khosla Ventures, as well as investors across various industries – wineries, consumer goods, hospitality and technology.

With the push of a button, it uses a pressurized needle-based system to extract one glass of wine at a time—but without removing the cork. This process allows the wine in each bottle to be preserved for up to 90 days. The device can hold two bottles at a time, and works with more than 200 wine varieties.

The machine also displays details from each label on its touchscreen, along with links to information on the grapes used to make that wine and its region of origin. Koretz hopes these extra features will give wine lovers the experience of attending a wine tasting in Napa Valley, where winemakers discuss the production process.

“We want to make Plum an extension of the tasting room,” he said.

At least domestically, Plum may have a significant built-in consumer base given that the U.S has been the largest wine consuming nation in the world since 2010. The country consumed about 913 million gallons of wine in 2015, which is about the same as 2.83 gallons per resident, according to the Wine Institute, a public policy advocacy association of California wineries. Over the past five years, total annual wine sales have grown to $2.6 billion.

However, addressing the device’s obvious sticker-shock, Koretz told CNBC that Plum is a luxury product not aimed at mass market consumers.

“We are focused on people passionate about wine and who have built a wine collection,” he said.

Koretz says Plum can offer solutions to many different customers in the wine market. It’s perfect for anyone who lives alone and doesn’t want to open an entire bottle of wine for themselves. It can also provide options for couples in which one partner prefers white wine while the other has a taste for red. It can also help those who want to host parties and offer their guests multiple varieties without worrying about finishing one bottle at a time.

In the future, Koretz hopes to expand beyond the consumer market into commercial and hospitality markets as well. “We think anywhere you’re trying to serve a great glass of wine, there is an application for Plum,” he said.

Pre-orders for the device began Oct. 17. It will be shipped out to customers in the spring.

Aneri Pattani, CNBC.com

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