Move over, potato chips and candy. A new vending machine technology implemented by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board now lets shoppers also push a button for their favorite Merlot.

In mid-October the control board, the only entity authorized to sell liquor in Pennsylvania, began installing 30 wine vending machines in various chain supermarkets across the state, which complies with the state law against selling alcohol in grocery stores. The machines, called Pronto Wine Kiosks, hold up to 700 bottles of 50 different varieties of wine and are available for anyone over the age of 21.

To buy the bottle of choice, however, it’s not as simple as pressing A9.

Consumers insert a valid state-issued ID card into a scanning device on the kiosk that reads the information from the magnetic strip. A customer service representative for the liquor control board monitors the transaction via video link from a remote location, checks the driver’s license information to ensure the consumer is of legal drinking age, and visually verifies the person’s identity against their photo ID. The customer is then required to blow into a blood alcohol measuring device. If a breath alcohol level of .02 or higher is detected, the consumer is denied service and won’t be able to make a purchase. The entire process takes less than 20 seconds, according to the liquor control board.

The purchaser’s personal information is held on the kiosks’ server, which communicates with the bank that’s involved in the payment transaction. The information is saved on the server for 30 days and then is erased.

According to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, this is the newest vending machine technology available to date. The machines were created by Pennsylvania-based Simple Brands.

The agency first experimented with the idea in June by placing two pilot machines in two large Pennsylvania stores. The response was positive and 28 more machines were then installed in other supermarkets, said Stacy Kriedeman deputy director of external affairs for the liquor control board.

“We didn’t know what to expect because this technology is new,” she said.

The liquor control board is in negotiations with Wal-Mart about installing the machines in stores statewide, said Kriedeman.

Lauren Katims Nadeau  |  Contributing Writer