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Wine Vending Machines Tested In PA

A shopper inspects wine offerings at a self-serve wine kiosk at a Giant food store, in Harrisburg, Pa.  Bradley C Bower/AP hide caption

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Bradley C Bower/AP

Wine is sold on supermarket shelves in many states across the country and the Republic seems none the worse for it.

You can't buy wine in Pennsylvania supermarkets, however. Well, you can if you can find your way to two grocery stores in the state that are part of an experiment in selling wine through in-store vending machines.

These may be the only vending machines a customer has to blow into to get the product. The Associated Press reports that a Breathalyzer is part of the machine, meant to prevent the legally drunk from making purchases.

The AP also reports that if the trial is deemed a success, the state's Liquor Control Board might allow about 100 of the devices in the state.

The AP explains how the process works:

The machines are about the size of four large refrigerators, though the wines are kept at room temperature. An ATM-type device sits at one end.

A customer chooses a wine on a touch-screen display, swipes an ID, blows into an alcohol sensor (no contact with the machine is required) and looks into a surveillance camera. A state employee in Harrisburg remotely approves the sale after verifying the buyer isn't drunk and matches the photo ID.

State officials say the process takes 20 seconds. The kiosks only take credit or debit cards, and they're closed on Sundays and holidays. A "convenience fee" of $1 would be added after the pilot phase.

The machine got a warm reception at Giant, where customers asked lots of questions and perused brochures describing the 53 available wines, from Argentine malbecs to California merlots.

Many people accustomed to the simple act of picking up a bottle or box of wine off the store shelf and going to the supermarket checkout line, will probably recoil at these machines with their surveillance cameras.

But if you're a Pennsylvania consumer, it certainly would seem like an improvement over having to find a state store.