Are wine stores getting away with “highway robbery?” Gary Landsman, owner of Taste Wine Company, thinks so. To put an end to this crime, he opened his East Village wine store earlier this month with the guiding principle of “taste before you buy.” Our first thought upon seeing the store’s cutting-edge tasting machines? It’s about time.
Currently, there are 50 wines available with plans to increase this number to 120 once 40 more machines are brought in (each machine holds two bottles and creates an “argon blanket” that prohibits oxygen from interacting with the wine – very safe, don’t worry).
“We see ourselves as a technology company that helps the customers identify the wines that are best for them,” said Landsman, who has been in the industry for 10 years and previously did marketing for a wine distributor. He worked with a developer to create a proprietary app that has a taste test to define your palate, offers suggestions, and invites you to rate the wines after sampling.
The app, currently available for download, incorporates a reward system wherein two taste tests get you 140 points, which can go toward sampling the wines (you’re allowed up to six free samples a day). After you rate the wines you’ll receive points back. Landsman is also in the process of connecting the app to the machines to make for more interactive tasting in the store.
“Some people want to geek out on wine, but not everyone does,” said Landsman, who used to “geek out” regularly during his wine blogging days. The app and the machines are all meant to make the wine selection process simple and entertaining. “Some people just want to enhance their dinner, enhance their experience and have that affordable luxury.”
Use of the app or guidance from one of the staff members is necessary for your first visit because the wines are organized into the categories of Balanced, Bold, Hyper and Sweet, rather than by region or varietal. The terms describe the tasters, rather than the wine. Once you take the taste test, you’ll know which type of palate you have. According to Landsman, a great percentage of the population have balanced palates and prefer flavors that are neither too intense nor too mild. Bold tasters have fewer taste buds on their tongue and therefore prefer more intense flavors like higher acidity, etc. And hyper refers to a palate that is sensitive to bold flavors and prefers smooth, easy-drinking wine. If sweet wine brings back fond memories of your moscato-drinking college years, there’s no reason to be ashamed.
Actually, Landsman hopes to appeal to the millennials and college students who may not fully understand their wine palate and don’t have a large budget. The bulk of the wines he sells are priced between $15 and $25.
“There’s nothing standard or ordinary about East Villagers and that’s kind of what we are,” said Landsman about how Taste Wine Company will fit into its new neighborhood. “Frankly, I think we are disrupting the industry. I think that people will see this and demand that they have one in their town.”
To Landsman, “wine is a gamble every time unless you taste it first.” By opening Taste Wine Company he wants to change the game. And he seems to be winning – just ask the group of men who came in after work yesterday. Their first comments as they engaged the machines to taste the wine? It’s better than slot machines at the casino.
Taste Wine Company is located at 50 Third Avenue.