Get Smart about Wine Apps


The thirst for knowledge is easily quenched by mobile apps and access to the Internet.

"If anyone should have one, it’s you,” I heard whenever talk of smart-phones erupted among friends. As a journalist covering travel, plus food and wine trends, I’m on six planes a month and often on tight deadlines for articles. Apparently, the idea that I could be locked out of my email inbox for an hour or two seemed inexcusable.

But, like many things in life, why fix what isn’t broken? Alas, just before 2013 wrapped, my flip-phone became unhinged and its sound quality dulled.

It was time to upgrade, to an iPhone.

Almost overnight, my world of wine opened up even more with the newfound access to apps, not to mention the Internet. Mulling over a wine list while out to dinner, I could easily expand beyond the sommelier’s tasting notes by visiting the winery’s website. If I liked the wine well enough to buy it later, the app could pop up the price in an instant in my palm, not to mention show its availability at a local retailer. If I wasn’t sure what to pair with asparagus risotto, or an equally baffling menu option like roasted artichokes, I would no longer be left high and dry—wine apps were ever-present to coach me.

Yet I was also asking questions: Now that diners have wine information at their fingertips, what does it mean for sommeliers and wine directors? Is this a cause for professional concern? Do they have to up their game? And, most importantly, were their jobs as informants on all things vino suddenly in jeopardy?

In test-driving numerous apps, my goal was to simulate a restaurant’s customer. For example, imagine I’m out to dinner with friends and we are attempting to settle on a bottle of red wine to pair with our vastly different orders. Or maybe I am perplexed about which $100-plus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon to choose as the choices span dozens of boutique producers (while that can be a very good thing, it’s not if you aren’t familiar with them). Perhaps the restaurant isn’t staffed with a roving wine expert, or the place is hopping and I’m eager to place an order. After all, for the price of a candy bar (most apps range from no cost at all to a modest $2.99), diners can download extremely detailed wine information. Isn’t that a threat that wine professionals need to listen to?

First, I put on my reporter hat, asking fellow wine drinkers for suggested downloads. With an eye on how a diner might enhance her experience at the table, or seek out a spot to drink wine some night, I sought out suggestions. Definitely ($1.99), wrote my friend Denise Reynolds, a wine writer in South Florida. I downloaded the app, clicking to my heart’s desire, stunned that my neighborhood wine bars loaded up tout de suite after I clicked “Places: Looking for a Wine Bar?” If in wine country, the app allows you to find wineries and vineyards too.


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