The centuries-old art of sipping, tasting and sniffing wine is getting an upgrade.
Earlier this month, the IFC Mall in Hong Kong saw the opening of Amo Eno, an interactive wine bar that combines technology and design to offer a wine tasting experience. The bar uses a special multi-touch LCD table powered by Surface 2.0 technology that acts as a menu, sommelier and wine handbook. A social media component lets you share where you are and what you're drinking with your friends.
If the concept sounds a bit familiar, Amo Eno is the brainchild of Andrew Bradbury, the self-professed wine and tech geek who tried similar outings earlier, with 55 Degrees in Las Vegas, which was all about imbibing vino while reposing in a richly-designed space, and Clo in New York's Time Warner Center, which offered an interactive wine experience. Both outlets have shut down, for differing reasons, said Bradbury. 55 Degrees closed due to a buyout of the space by MGM, while Clo shut down about a year after Bradbury left. While reviews online for Clo have pointed to the design of the space as being faulty -- some note that it used overhead projection instead of Surface 2.0 technology that Amo Eno uses -- that creates an unsatisfactory user experience, Bradbury said that the idea was to offer a forward-thinking, clean and modern space. "It may not have appealed to everyone, but a lot of people liked the space as it wasn't traditional."
"The lack of a retail license was the main contributing factor [to its failure]," he said. Clo only sold wine for consumption, not for retail. "The bar did well on its own but was not sustainable at a level without bottle sales." In Hong Kong, he has the ability to combine the experience, he said.
Amo Eno has a significant retail component, not only of wine but also of the accoutrements that go along with wine: decanters, glasses, and so on. Along with his wife Brook, who acts as design director, and wine enthusiast and venture capitalist Charles Banks, Bradbury is now hoping to lure affluent Hong Kongers, as well as get some business in from the Chinese mainland as well.
The idea is to offer wine that isn't easily available in the region. "There is a stronger interest in wine now," said Bradbury. "There is this idea that the market only drinks Bordeaux and maybe Burgundy, but people are clamoring for much more."
Bradbury has sought to meld wine with design and technology with Amo Eno. Design-wise, the pair has brought in products from all over the world, from decanters to goblets, all locally- sourced and handmade. "If this were just a store it would still be incredibly innovative," said Hunter Tura, president of Bruce Mau Design, who worked on the design aspects of the bar.
Bradbury is also known for introducing eWinebook in 2011, a Microsoft and HP-powered electronic wine list. He used similar custom software enhancements for the touch-screen LCD at Amo Eno and integrated the oenomatics with the touch table so the customer gets a seamless, 21st century wine experience.
Amo Eno also maintains modern decor, with plenty of clean lines and no clutter. As you walk in, an accessory display greets you, followed by wine racks, cantilever rows of wine in a horizontal position. "It's clean and modern and back-lit, almost like a Prada store," said Brook. Then, on the right, the touch-table bar with four screens, with displays on the wall. The entire space runs about 1,300 square feet.
Alongside the interiors, Bruce Mau Design also worked on the identity. The first thing was to make sure the name, "Amo Eno," which means Love Wine, worked in the Chinese language. "The last thing we wanted was to have it have some creepy connotations in the culture," said Tura.
The logo, a series of lit tubes criss-crossing to create two wine bottles with a heart in the middle, is part of a concept for the bar that pairs light and motion to create a very modern and stripped-down aesthetic. It was created in cinema 4D, an unusual choice for logo systems, but one that drives the architectural feel of the project.
The ceiling of the bar -- one of the focal points of the space -- duplicates the logo. It uses top- lit acrylic tubes that allow light to travel through, creating a "hot spot" at the base. It also evokes the skyline of Hong Kong, said Tura. "This is the first time that the result actually looks like the rendering," said Tura. "It's great, the coolest wine bar ever."
BMD worked with PARC Office for the architecture, especially the display system, which Tura calls "crystalline and dramatic, perfect to showcase some of the most beautiful products in the world."
"Wine retail has a new energy in Hong Kong right now," said Bradbury. "There is an anxious, eager wine community and this is an intense town. It creates a lot of potential."