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Updated: January 22, 2010 19:37 IST

Message on a bottle

MUKUND PADMANABHAN
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Wine apps provide the consumer with an easy and immediate way to negotiate a world in which there are too many brands to remember

The other day I spotted a young colleague demonstrating a wine app on her Ipod to some friends. She was showing them the tasting note of a wine she had recently drunk to approving squeals of “cool, isn't it?”

It's easy to understand why wine apps are becoming increasingly popular all over the world. They provide the consumer with an easy and immediate way to negotiate a world in which there are too many brands to remember and too many bottles with unfriendly labels that are lacking in information. Wine is also being increasingly sold in impersonal supermarkets manned by unhelpful staff. As for restaurants, the choice is often between asking an ignorant waiter or an intimidating sommelier.

Wine is possibly the only industry in which consumers are expected to fork out sums of money on products that they may know next to nothing about. In the face of such marketing apathy among wineries and retailers and the information deficit among consumers, technology offers a neat solution: ask your mobile.

Today, wine apps on smart phones — available free or at a small cost — can help you select a wine, pair it with food or cheese, and throw up a calorie count per serving. While some furnish tasting notes, others allow you to write your own and save a photograph of the label of a bottle you have just drunk as a reference in your virtual cellar. Searches can throw up best buy and most popular lists, and price comparisons between stores. And now, in some countries, you can also buy wine through iPhone thanks to specially developed apps by websites such as www.wine.com and the Tesco supermarket chain.

Wine apps are not useful only for the uninformed wine lover. They are improving and becoming informative all the time and are likely — with advances in technology — to become even better. Already, you can carry ratings and tasting notes by Wine Spectator, the splendid and highly respected wine magazine, wherever you go. It's website www.winespectator.com has been optimised to enable Internet-enabled smartphones to search its database of some 200,000 reviews for wine scores and tasting notes. A Wine Spectator columnist envisages a future where you can point your mobile phone at a bar code or some other tag on a label and connect to a website or receive a message on a bottle. Alternatively, focus the camera on your phone at the label and instantly call up information that is loaded in a database.

Apple is ahead in the wine apps race (in all apps, for that matter), but RIM has developed some neat ones for its Blackberries as well. Go for the app or apps that suit your purposes best — on whether you want ratings, tasting notes, food pairings etc. Like wine, there is a wine app for virtually everyone nowadays.

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