NFC-enabled wine bottles: a New World answer to a first world problem

Mary Lennighan
By Mary Lennighan

Aug 7, 2019

via Flickr © vreimunde (CC BY 2.0)

via Flickr © vreimunde (CC BY 2.0)

  • California's Böen rolls out NFC-enabled bottle caps
  • Consumers demand connected packaging, launch partner claims
  • Technology helps brands drive engagement...if consumers use it

Buying wine can be a tricky business, particularly when your choice criteria fall somewhere between 'getting the most booze for the lowest price' and 'hmmm, '75 wasn't a great year for Burgundy.'

If you're in a supermarket, there's the tried and tested method of identifying decent-looking bottles with a couple of quid discount, then cross-referencing with a grape variety or region you've heard of. A more specialist outlet, meanwhile, might provide tasting notes on the shelf, promising hints of vanilla, blackcurrant and tobacco, but neglecting to mention that the tannins might strip the enamel from your teeth. And there's always the option of reading the label on the bottle itself, should you be able to hold it far enough away from you to do so, or indeed encourage your long-suffering spouse (who doesn't need an eye test) to help:

"What's that say?"
"Um...'perfect with shellfish.'"
"We're having beef."

Surely there's an easier way.

It is without doubt a first world problem, but a winemaker in the New World has come up with a solution to educating customers about its wines.

This month Böen wines, made by Copper Cane in California's Napa Valley, came to market with NFC-enabled bottle caps. Consumers can tap the cap with their NFC-enabled smartphone and hey presto, a portal opens up giving them more information about the wine itself and the vineyards in which it originated.

There's no need to download an app, the firm emphasises. The portal "takes you to Böen's farmhouse where consumers can be educated about where and how their wine was made, offering food pairings, and a central place for fans to share their own experiences with Böen within the platform and via social media," it says.

That sounds like a good idea. There has been a certain amount of democratisation in the wine industry in recent years, and vendors of this type of luxury good can surely use all the help they can get in making their product stand out in a fairly crowded market. Seeing what others think of a particular wine and learning whether it will pair well with the chicken chasseur or egg and chips they have planned for dinner could well tip the consumer's purchasing decision in favour of the high-tech bottle.

SharpEnd, the agency that describes itself as Böen's innovation partner for the launch, working alongside bottle top specialist Guala Closures Group, believes this type of interaction is exactly what consumers want, funnily enough.

"There is increasing consumer demand for connected packaging across a range of technologies," said SharpEnd CEO Cameron Worth. "We know from experience that brands who leverage connected packaging to drive engagement can learn more about what their consumers want and keep up with emerging trends."

It's too early to say whether consumers agree; the product only launched on 1 August. Should Böen elect to publish the data, it would be interesting to learn how much consumers use the portal and whether or not that translates into sales.

Will we take the time to educate ourselves on a particular wine while browsing the shelves, or will old habits dies hard?

"Oooh, an NFC bottle cap...But look, the Rioja's £4 off and we liked it last time."
"OK. So what cheese should we get with that?"
"Ummm, I love a Manchego, but the Cheddar's got Bluetooth..."

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