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Raise a glass! Your next hotel room might offer wine on tap

Mar 08 2018 20:56
Elin McCoy, Bloomberg

New York - The situation: You key in to your hotel room after a stressful business meeting. All you want is an immediate glass of wine to drink while watching the evening news. 

The problem: You don’t want to open the full bottle of ludicrously overpriced plonk in the minibar. Room service will take 45 minutes to bring you a Saran-wrapped glass filled with Champagne that’s too warm. 

A growing number of hotels have found a solution to this widespread dilemma: the Plum machine. About the size of a large espresso machine, the latest in-room luxury preserves two opened bottles of wine for weeks at the perfect serving temperature and allows you to draw off a glass with one touch. 

When it debuted as the new “essential” home wine appliance last year at $1 499.00, I admit I was unmoved. Owning one made sense only if 1) you take days to finish off a bottle of vino, or 2) hate to open bottles yourself. 

But now a great use case has really revealed itself: For hotel guests, the Plum is a godsend, even if you have to pay for each glass you drink. And a touchscreen provides lots of information on the wine, tasting notes, and even a virtual tour of the winery, if you want. Take that, Alexa! Who’s Pouring?

The first hotel to capitalise on the Plum’s in-room potential was the Four Seasons in Silicon Valley, where the pace is fast and the clientele savours the latest hi-tech amenities.

General Manager Florian Riedel says its suites feature the Plum, and all rooms will have them by the end of 2018. The sleek, brushed-stainless cube sits nicely on a sideboard, taking up very little space for the pleasure it brings. 

The mastermind behind the Plum, tech entrepreneur David Koretz, admits he started working with hotels two years before the device officially launched. He enlisted engineers from Google, Amazon’s Lab 126, and Motorola to develop the technology. It uses double-cored needles to pierce the bottles’ corks and then injects argon gas to preserve the wine. 

“I initially created Plum to solve my own problem - I wanted the perfect glass of wine at a touch when I got home,” Koretz said in an email. “But I quickly realised that the hotel guest experience was far worse.” And he saw the market: the world’s 4 million or so luxury hotel rooms. 

So far, he’s made nearly a dozen deals in the US, including Miami Beach’s La Confidante, the Hyatt Unbound Collection, and the Rosewood Sand Hill near Palo Alto, California, which rolled out its Plum programme last month.

Later there will be more, such as San Francisco’s the Clift and the Dallas Park Cities Hilton. Future brands include the St Regis and the Waldorf Astoria. International expansion is a given. 

What guests most appreciate, says La Confidante general manager Keith Butz, is “the convenience.”  

The Plum automatically keeps track of how many glasses you drink, adds the cost to your hotel bill, and even notifies management when it’s time to replace the bottles. 

It also fits neatly into the current tech-savvy hotel room trend. “Technology,” says Koretz, “is forcing hoteliers to rethink what service means in an era where they may never interact with the guest in person.” 

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