The experience of tasting nearly 2000 wines in the course of about 65 flights seems daunting to me even now but that is exactly what I did for Better Wine Guide. I’m fairly caught up with this project and I’m ready to get back to writing. As challenging as this was for me, I am really happy I had such an opportunity because it certainly puts things squarely into perspective, not the least of which, I must acknowledge that I am completely spoiled by the trappings of fine wine. But fine wine, or at least good wine does not have to cost $200+ per bottle.
Better Wine Guide is an iPhone app developed for people that do not have the desire or the time to learn all about fine wine. And if you are knowledgeable about fine wine, you know that the learning curve is pretty bloody steep and can take years of study and tens of thousands of dollars to eventually ‘come to an understanding’. It takes a protracted amount of time and commitment to learn wine on a reasonably deep level so, who can blame anyone for not doing it? It’s really like learning a foreign language and one must have that kind of commitment and resources of both time and money to bring themselves up to par with other wine experts in the world.
How did this Better Wine Guide project get started anyway? It started with my neighbors, all of whom are dear to me. Everyone knew I was a wine collector or as I am called more often, a ‘wine snob’ (I do not take offense to the description). So during frequent neighborhood get-togethers I would often ask people about their wine choices of Woodbridge, Yellow Tail, and the like. Truly I was fascinated about the selections that would show up in wine bottles. This lead to the question of, “How do you buy wine? When you’re shopping, why would you choose one bottle (brand) over another?” Almost every response was either, “I’ve had it before and I’m okay with it”, or more often “I like how the label looks.” Wow! How the label looks has never been an accurate indicator of quality as far as I know. This lead to more questions.
So I started researching this and it turns out that even though I have numerous brilliant people all around me, this wine-buying logic is not indigenous to my neighborhood. And further research revealed this mind-numbing information: last year in the US 330 million cases of wine were sold and more than 90% of that wine was priced at less than $25 per bottle. Those numbers were almost inconceivable to me. But the thing is that anyone that buys wine at a grocery store, or at a liquor store not specializing in fine wine, has no information available whatsoever about what they’re buying and no wine critic has ever reviewed these wine because they are not taken seriously! But if we revisit the number about these wines representing over 90% of the market, how can this be? I was stunned, really, when I started looking into this. But it hit me that I’ve never seen any major critic rate the wines that most Americans buy.
Thus, the idea of Better Wine Guide was born. As I’ve always shared with you, few things give me greater pleasure than turning people on to a bottle of wine that lights their fire. And the fact that these wines (almost all of them) have never been critically rated is what created Better Wine Guide, with the hope that people will discover a world of better of wine out there. I don’t want to compete with Wine Spectator, Robert Parker, Steve Heimoff, Stephen Tanzer, Jancis Robinson, or especially James Suckling (a rock star of sorts to me). These guys know what they’re doing, so who am I? I’m the guy that reviewed all of the wines they have disregarded, kicked to the curb, and would probably consider plonk. But the reality is, these are wines that most people drink and there deserves to be unbiased, critical information available about them.
The app’s design is easy to use with a barcode scanner so while in the store, scanning the barcode brings up a score and tasting notes for that particular wine. I wanted to write tasting notes that would be accessible without being condescending to people, avoiding the dumb-down approach; I would rather have people ask what ‘tannin’ means than intentionally sidestep the use of an extremely important term. With powerful search features and the ability to rate every wine purchased and contribute to community scores, the app seems well rounded for millions of wine consumers. All wine are under $25 per bottle and the user can search within her or his own price range in $5 increments.
My intent in the wine world is to turn people on to the best wine at a price that’s comfortable for them, whether that’s $6.99 or $1699. And I believe that regardless of price, if people have a good experience discovering good wine, they will at some point want to expand their horizons into better wine as their wine knowledge also expands. If you are a collector, oenophile, connoisseur, or otherwise a wine expert, the only reason you might want this app is to provide an answer when someone asks you to recommend a good wine, and you know they’re not going to spend more than $25 to buy it. But for people buying over 90% of the wine sold in America, this is for you.
So without further prose or fuss, I present to you Better Wine Guide – now available on Apple’s iTune Store.
Better Wine Guide fab logo: Blase Design, Austin