Why do all wine apps suck balls?

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Why do all wine apps suck balls?

One of my favourite ideas that I like to pose to people is the similarity between the wine industry and the startup world. Both are a perfect blend of art and technology where passionate wine makers and entrepreneurs use science to create something beautiful.  But I’m not convinced that these two industries have combined in any particularly interesting ways just yet.

This strikes me as bizarre. People who drink wine are prime targets for innovative apps and technologies. Gone are the days of tasting notebooks and un-ironic bow ties: an interest in wine usually comes with a disposable income and a desire to brag, and I am guessing a fair few tablets and smart phones. This space is ripe for the picking, and the apps available to wine lovers at the moment are both numerous and completely boring.

A wine app tends to suffer from crippling predictability: it will let you rate wines and look at other people’s ratings, provide a glossary of terms and food matches, and you will be able to share what you’ve been drinking on Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes you can scan barcodes and sometimes you can keep track of your cellar. Most of the time there is simply too much going on – too many features render the app confusing and irrelevant. And for whatever reason these apps tend to be hideous.

Web platforms aren’t much better – they are usually either a database of wines or an online delivery service of some kind. They are useful on occasion, especially if you live in an area that doesn’t have a decent wine shop, but they aren’t setting the world on fire. While websites like Wine Searcher were revolutionary when they arrived on the scene in the early 2000s, nothing recently has stood out enough that I would even go to the effort of downloading the app or signing up online.

So I set out to prove myself wrong. And I was successful to a degree – I have found a few online and mobile wine resources which don’t look too bad and are actually quite fun to use, even if they haven’t quite disrupted the whole industry yet. These apps and web platforms have one main thing in common – they aren’t trying to do too much.

One such app is Delectable, an iOS app that lets you share what you have been drinking with your friends. It works as a kind of This is My Jam for wine drinkers – you can post a photograph and a rating of what you are drinking and you can follow your friends and influencers and see what wines, beers and spirits they are getting down with. By focusing on this sharing aspect and offering everything else as peripheral features, Delectable offers something that is actually kind of fun as well as being slightly useful.

A web platform that I like the idea of is Rewinery, which falls into the ‘give us money and we’ll send you junk!’ category. But Rewinery is a bit different, offering wines delivered as quickly as within an hour. And there isn’t a minimum order either – you can order one bottle of wine to be delivered to your front door while you lie on the couch with your laptop on your chest.

Unfortunately Rewinery only operates in San Francisco at the moment and I don’t think that it is a viable business option in Europe just yet, what with alcohol taxes and delivery costs. My Berlin-based palate can’t help but feel sad about this as I trudge through the mid-March snow to buy an extremely average bottle of Riesling from the supermarket.

Delectable and Rewinery are cool and all, but neither of them have changed the way we think about wine – how we buy it and interact with it. I have found that my favourite wine resource online is actually the r/wine community on reddit. Made up of a small group of wine enthusiasts, it offers a really diverse opportunity to discuss wine related topics – everything from the future of appellation controls in Burgundy to what to drink with spicy Vietnamese food. It’s inclusive and varied, and for this ex-wine salesperson, it’s the perfect forum to nerd out about wine from time to time.

I think what r/wine has that is key is the chance to engage with others without necessarily being the stock standard ‘share on Facebook or Twitter’. It would be great to see more of this discussion and passion taken online, and provide wine resources for people who know what they are looking at when they are faced with a wall of wine and don’t need the ratings of others to help them choose what to drink. What I want out of a wine app is discussion rather than discovery.

And in that spirit of discussion I will open the floor – what wine apps do you think are indispensible? Is there room for disruption in this space?

Image: http://500px.com/photo/22473223


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  • http://twitter.com/WINEHOs Wine-Hos

    I haven’t used wine apps as they haven’t done enough for me to get excited about, Delectable sounds the most fun though?

    A good one I’ve heard of was set up around the Wineriot events – basically you go to the event and taste lots of wine, then use the app to record what you liked (or didn’t like) and it tells you where you can buy it. Way more efficient that a tasting booklet…

    • claireysan

      Yes, the Wineriot one sounds pretty good actually. A good blend of online and offline engagement.