The family-run Kiwi business revolutionising how wine drinkers find the perfect drop

Fine Wine Delivery’s Family of Wine left to right  - Jeff and Virginia Poole with daughter Tracey and son Richard.
Fine Wine Delivery’s Family of Wine left to right - Jeff and Virginia Poole with daughter Tracey and son Richard. Photo credit: Supplied

A family-run Kiwi business is using artificial intelligence (AI) to revolutionise how New Zealanders choose their wine.

The technology not only allows customers to find the perfect drop, but it also empowers them to look past the opinions of critics and choose wine based on their own unique taste.

Established in 1997, Fine Wine Delivery Company has been at the forefront of the frontier between wine and technology since Jeff and Virginia Poole started the company from a spare bedroom in their house on Auckland's North Shore.

Boasting the country's first interactive wine website way back in 1998, the company also lays claim to hosting the nation's first live-streamed online wine tasting event a few years after that.

Now, the company has gone one step further, utilising IBM's AI platform Watson - made famous for its appearance on the TV Show Jeopardy! - to create what Jeff thinks will be a game-changer in the industry: the Flavour Wheel

The idea is to tap into the wealth of knowledge Jeff and his team have built up over the years and make it instantly accessible so customers can easily find the perfect bottle of wine, beer or spirits.

"It's just exciting, to bring our passion and all this technology together," says Jeff.

The team at Fine Wine Delivery take the job of choosing their wine very seriously.

When it comes to deciding what goes on their shelves their philosophy is simple: if they don't like it they don't stock it.

Jeff says even from the early days tasting and standing behind everything they sold was a key part of the company's ethos.

"We're tasting thousands of wines, craft beers and fine spirits a year so that's a big commitment," he says. "But that really positions us right out in front in terms of being able to advise our customers and to be a trusted brand."

Over the years the company has used that tasting experience to build up an in-depth database with rich descriptors and technical information for each bottle.

Now, the new Flavour Wheel allows customers to access decades of knowledge at the touch of a button.

And Jeff thinks it will revolutionise the industry - enabling customers to find wines that match their unique taste as well as discover new drops that might just become their future favourites.

In order to find their perfect wine, customers merely need to select the flavours they identify with the most on the flavour wheel and the technology will do the rest.

Customers will be served up with a range of wines, beers or spirits that have the same flavour profile they personally enjoy!

It doesn't stop there though. Once you get the hang of it and figure out what you like, "you can have a little play with it", says Jeff.

"You can shift the needle ever so slightly as you go on, knowing you're not going to get a shock [but] that you're going to get something different and something more interesting.

"You're going to be able to experiment on a gradual's going to be an amazing tool to give that confidence."

By allowing customers to bypass the opinions of others, Jeff thinks the technology will "empower the wine drinker to be confident enough to make their own decisions and buy wine that suits their tastes."

The introduction of the Flavour Wheel - which was created with the help of developers Spacetime - comes at a time when wine drinkers are more informed and knowledgeable than ever.

"What the consumer knows now about wine from when we started 23 years ago is chalk and cheese," says Jeff.

One thing that hasn't changed over time though is the company's family-run approach. In recent years, Jeff and Virginia's children, Richard Poole and Tracey Hawes, have taken a greater role in the day-to-day running of the business leaving Jeff more time to come up with innovations like the flavour wheel.

And as technology continues to make it easier to share his love of wine with others, what he comes up with next is anyone's guess.

This article was created for Fine Wine Delivery