Laithwaite's pioneers online recommendations with Amazon-style service

Laithwaite’s is offering customers Amazon-style tasting recommendations based on an algorithm that creates a taste fingerprint for each wine on its website.

The service, which pulls up three similar tasting wines when consumers click on a particular bottle, has been running for several months now. Laithwaite’s developed the technology itself over the past few years.

Laithwaite's: 'and now for the science part'.

Similar tasting wines

Laithwaite’s is now making wine recommendations to consumers based around a complex taste algorithm.

Laithwaite’s also plans to introduce further elements of personalisation over the coming months. This is the first time a UK wine retailer has offered wine taste recommendations online based on an algorithm. Several US-based firms have experimented and a number of apps offer similar services.

A panel of a minimum of four tasters from Laithwaite’s assesses each wine based on several characteristics, and inputs the data into the system. The algorithm can then pick out a range of around 20 wines which match up in terms of flavour, then selects the top three wines available. Websites offering flavour matches to date have been much more simplistic – picking out other wines from the same country, region or grape variety, or ‘people who bought this also bought’ rather than personal taste.

Laithwaite's: 'and now for the science part'.

Laithwaite’s explains the science behind its taste recommendations to customers

Laithwaite’s has developed an algorithm which selects similar tasting wines for customers.

Matches offered for Hunters Pinot Noir 2010 from New Zealand’s Marlborough region include a Burgundy from Château de Puligny Monthélie 2009, Rhone’s Chapoutier La Croix des Grives 2010 and Italy’s Duca di Cardino Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2008.

Justin Howard-Sneyd MW, former global wine director and now consultant for Direct Wines, told at London Wine Fair that it had turned on the technology “gently” a couple of months ago.

Although he said customers may not always like what’s recommended, like a dating website “your hit rate is better”. “You’ll like a much higher percentage of [wine] within the defined parameters.”

Howard-Sneyd said Laithwaite’s taste recommendations lowers risk for consumers and also encourages them to spend more on wine. He said the “biggest barrier to trading up is a lack of confidence”, and that often people buy a £15 bottle of Burgundy or Chianti because they “think they should” when they normally spend £8. If they don’t like the more expensive wines it can put them off spending more the next time. 


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