Just for the tech of it: SD26 wine list goes digital

SD26 winelist The digital wave sweeping over the print world has found an unlikely target: the restaurant wine list.

I stopped by SD26 on a recent weeknight and things were hopping. The restaurant, opened on Madison Square in September to the tune of $7 million, boasts a wine bar in the front. Tony May, who previously owned the traditional San Domenico, told the New York Times that with SD26 “We aim for the cutting edge.”

Thus behold the 24 bottles in Enomatic, self-service dispensers. And no matter where you are in the large space, the wine list only comes in one form and–paper-be-damned–it’s digital.

It awaits on the bar, propped up by a little kick stand in the back, beckoning you with “SD26″ on the screen. The hostess said that if there were a paper edition it would be “too big” given the amount of wines available. I couldn’t resist and picked up the 9×5 tablet and started tapping the touch screen. First fields: red, white or bubbly? Then drill down: glass, half bottle or bottle? Then drill down again: a list of producers, regions and vintages.

SD26 detail Drill, baby, drill! But this tablet system is a dry hole. When you eventually arrive on a page you want, there is the option to sort by price or alphabetically. Despite having interactive capability, the digitized wine list remains merely a list. There are no descriptions of the wines. No ability to sort by style. Few images. No suggestions for pairings with items on the menu. No interactions such as the ability to rate the wine that you had after you tried it and then coming up with a short list of popular picks or sorting by user-generated rankings. No internet access. So you’re pretty much left where you were with a paper list: talking with the sommelier for a suggestion.

Although the inventory could be instantly updated, the wines probably don’t change too often: the server I spoke with in the front said that the 24 wines in the Enomatic machines have been there since the opening and will likely be there through the new year.

So, really, the substance of the wine list doesn’t appear to benefit form the style of the tablet. It seems to have been done just for the tech of it.

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4 Responses to “Just for the tech of it: SD26 wine list goes digital”


  1. If you’re interested in this sort of thing, check out this article:

    http://www.sommelierjournal.com/articles/article.aspx?year=2008&month=11&articlenum=58


  2. Sounds like the future and I like it. Obviously, there are some kinks to work out, like fleshing out flavor profiles, etc. But love the idea that a wine list can change on the fly, with no wait time for printers, etc
    Cheers,
    Amy Atwood


  3. To me this is an expensive adventure chasing the mythical technical magic bullet. In this case the wines barely ever change, so why plonk down thousands on touchscreens, plus inevitable tech support for problems, plus higher electricity rates? Wine at restaurants/bars is already overpriced, do we want to be paying for this stuff too?

    Now I’m Computer Programmer so I can completely admire this kind of thing just because it is new tech, but as a consumer – no thanks!


  4. Once the tech part gets to the commodity level then something creative will be done in this space. Multiple tags for Jura chardonnay, for example, wd be great, so that the guest could search by varietal or winemaking style.

    Similarly, commentary/info could easily be hyperlinked.

    The next gen device could feature graphics & graffiti… that’s the one we are waiting for!


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