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Intelligent wine packaging takes place of sommelier

RFID-enabled wine cartridge works with dispenser to adjust the system for the perfect pour, while WiFi technology allows the user to track their wine preferences via smartphone.

The Sylo is constructed of an outer recycled paperboard cylinder, within which is a flexible pouch that holds the wine.
The Sylo is constructed of an outer recycled paperboard cylinder, within which is a flexible pouch that holds the wine.

SYNEK, the St. Louis startup that introduced a standalone beer dispenser for home use in mid-2015, has now taken its technology and applied it to wine, resulting in a personalized wine-drinking experience. The new Somm wine dispensing system uses RFID-enabled wine cylinders to adjust the unit for the perfect temperature and aeration, while WiFi technology enables the Somm to learn the wine drinker’s palate and curate wines just for them.

The Somm, like the beer dispenser, is a tabletop unit. It measures 16.5 in. H x 9 in. W x 16.5 in. D and is available in three finishes. To dispense the wine, the user inserts a Sylo—a 2.25-L cylinder of wine—into the system, which reads an RFID label on the package to adjust the temperature and aeration of the pour specifically for that wine.

Says SYNEK founder and Somm inventor Steve Young, his goal in creating the system was to reduce the cost related to shipping wine and make the wine selection process less overwhelming for consumers. “Our requirements for the packaging were that it be 60-percent cheaper than bottles, fully recyclable, be data-enabled, and not look like a box of Franzia,” he says.

Developed in-house, the Sylo is constructed of an outer recycled paperboard cylinder, within which is a flexible pouch that holds the wine. The four-ply laminate pouch is constructed of PET/foil/biaxially oriented nylon/PE (a flexible packaging supplier has not yet been finalized). A proprietary valve fitment interacts with a special pump in the Somm to extract the wine without needing gas. Allowing users to switch from one Sylo to another at any time, the fitment automatically seals when removed from the system. “It allows for full interchangeability without hurting shelf life,” explains Young.

As for shelf life, Young says it remains “untouched,” which means, he says, it depends on the wine inside. “Some wines are meant to be drunk within a year, others are meant to age,” he explains. “The Sylo keeps the wine perfectly preserved, no mater how many times it is engaged with the Somm.”

To track how much wine is in a Sylo, users can synch their smartphone with the Somm. This app also gives them more information about the wine they are drinking and what it pairs with, and allows them to automatically reorder and shop for wine. Says Young, “Where it really gets exciting is when the user ranks the wine on very specific categories. The specificity allows us to pinpoint exactly why the user liked or disliked the wine.”

The Sylo holds the equivalent of three 750-mL glass bottles, reducing packaging materials by 62%, and its components are completely recyclable. According to Young, the packaging also produces 60% less CO2 than glass wine bottles in terms of the emissions resulting from production of the material, the shipping weight, the savings in space and storage, and the energy required to recycle the material.

The Somm and the Sylos are currently in production and will be available to a limited audience by the end of the year. The system is scheduled to launch at retail in Q-1 2017. The Somm is priced at $299, and Sylos range anywhere from under $20 to $100 plus, depending on the wine variety. SYNEK will launch with around 30 wines—an assortment that it hopes to grow by one to two wines per week. “Eventually we plan to have 1,000-plus wines within three years,” says Young.

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