While every stand at Vinitaly had guests trying wine, only the Consorzio Soave enclosure had people tasting wine while wearing heavy dark glasses and head phones. And only on the Soave stand would tasters suddenly spin on their chairs.
It’s because the tasters were sipping while immersed in augmented reality. In their minds, they were doing a tour of Soave.
“We’ve taken existing footage that we have at Soave and applied it to augmented reality," says digital marketing specialist Susan Hedblad. "Can we bring something like this to a tasting in Japan, and give people more of a sensation? We’ve been using maps, we’ve been using soil samples, but what we haven’t been able to do is give that feeling of tasting wine at a winery or vineyard.”
The head phones aren’t heavy, and it is still possible to see the real world through the glasses. But once the experience is activated, the user finds themselves standing in the epicentre of Soave, able to see all the crus laid out before them. Pretty soon, this user was spinning around too, taking in the whole panorama of the region.
As part of the experience, staff poured a Soave wine to taste while viewing the vineyards.
Soave is both a dry white wine from the Veneto region in northern Italy, and also the name of a region. The main grape is Garganega, though Trebbiano and even Chardonnay are permitted. The wine reached a peak of popularity in export markets after World War II, but its association with cheap white wines eventually tarnished its image. For the past decade, however, the Soave region has devoted considerable time and resources to studying soils, biodiversity and the effects of climate change, which has raised the overall wine quality. The wines have recently undergone a renaissance, as critics and buyers have taken note of the improvements, and also as fresh white wines have become trendy again.
Hedblad says that in future, the consorzio may use augmented reality to put people right into the vineyard, where “maybe you can walk through the grass and up the slopes to do the harvest.”
Staff put a second glass of wine on the table, and the second scenario began. This time the viewer was plunged into a grape’s view of the world, from vineyard into the bottle, to the final wine bar destination. The third and final scenario was a historic look at Soave, created from old photographs.
Augmented reality technology gives the viewer a view of a real place, where the experience is enhanced with technology, graphics or sound. In the case of the historic Soave photographs, they had been given three-dimensional depth.
“What we are trying to do here is the first augmented reality wine tasting,” says Antonio Scuderi, founder and CEO of Art Glass, the company behind the technology. “We are a company that operates mostly in the field of cultural heritage and we were the first to launch in museums.”
Scuderi says that wine is “one of the most important cultural assets we have, and not just in Italy.”
When it comes to what the technology can do, the sky is literally the limit of what's possible, including recreating historic scenes, “maybe with actors playing historic characters”.
But for now, augmented reality technology is opening up future possibilities – dizzying ones – for wine tasting.