Is It Malbec or Merlot? Ask an E-Tongue

Needless to say, the world's sommeliers need not worry for their livelihoods just yet.

"The robot doesn't offend me," says Fred Dexheimer, the wine and beverage director at the BLT Restaurant Group in New York and one of 124 master sommeliers in the United States. "It's more of a gimmick than anything, but it could be a good thing maybe on the retail end and for quality assessment and authenticity."

But even if it reaches the technical heights of being able to flawlessly tell an Oregon pinot from a California pinot or a New Zealand pinot, there's still an important personal side to wine, Dexheimer says.

"The robot doesn't pick the wines for the wine list, it doesn't know the winemakers, it doesn't know the soils, it hasn't been to these places. And when people go into a restaurant, they want something recommended that someone has some experience with, and not just saying it has this fruit and that fruit.

"But the robot's fun," Dexheimer adds, "and anything that can make wine more entertaining, and anything we can do to get the word out on wine, even if it's something as crazy as this, well … "

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