Monday, November 16, 2015

Wine Appholes

Nothing is safe from smartphones, their apps, and the appholes that use them. Especially not wine. FYI, I don’t own a smartphone. My wife has one, but I don’t qualify. Besides, I’m creeped out by Siri. She reminds me of a stalker I once had. A lot of bad memories there. I should have known something was wrong when we first made love and my future stalker said, “In ten inches, go straight,” followed by a disappointed, “Recalculating.” So I won’t be purchasing any wine apps. (And why is Siri a woman’s voice? I guess because if Siri were a man giving directions it would be more like, “I think we make a left in one hundred yards, it looks kinda familiar, and, for Christ’s sake, why are you going so slow, it’s just a pedestrian. And use your fucking turn signal, what are we, from the rest home?”)

There’s something rather sweet and simpleminded about the idea of people using wine apps. They take a picture of a wine bottle and wait for their phone to tell them about it. It takes them back to when they were slow little kids and they loved their Fisher-Price See ’N Say. “That’s a Madiran. You won’t like it. It makes a sound like a goat. ‘Tannaaaaaaat’” It’s how we learn! You know, I wonder why Tinder doesn’t capitalize on the See ’N Say mentality of appholes. Wouldn’t it be even easier to select a date if you not only viewed their photo, but also heard a brief recording? “This is Fred. In bed, he sounds like this, ‘Oh, baby, wow, you feel good, I’m gonna…sorry, that snuck up on me.’” Seems like they’re missing out here.
Oh, that's going to leave a Wine Ring.

A couple of soon-to-be-former friends of mine are involved with a new wine app called “Wine Ring.” First of all, I have no idea what a Wine Ring is, or what the name even means. Though, apparently, the app’s purpose is to erect a platform that you maintain so that it can advise you what wines you’ll like. So, I guess, judging from the erection and maintaining it, it’s basically a wine lover’s cock ring, which would explain the name. I had a cock ring once, but I was afraid to answer it. No, really, what the hell is a Wine Ring? Aside from what you leave on your date’s lower back when you set your glass of Pinot Noir there. But, for that matter, it seems like most of the wine apps out there have stupid names. I always think Vivino is for pretentious people with speech impediments looking for a good Pepinot Noir.

When you download and use Wine Ring, you begin by rating every wine you taste with their complicated rating system—“Love It, Like It, SoSo and Dislike It™” I particularly like the ™ at the end. Who’s going to steal that? The people who make vibrators? And, really, the goddam 100 Point Scale is so complex and hard to understand that we need a new scale that comes right out and insults our intelligence? It’s really a way to simplify the system for the developers. But I would have liked to have been in the room when all of these MWs (there are five listed as part of the Wine Ring Circus) came up with this rating system. “I don’t know, they’re mostly ignorant Millennials that will sign up for it. Why don’t we just use the ‘OMG, WFM, YMMV and WTF? Scale’”

Once the user has rated a dozen wines, Wine Ring claims, then it’s ready to guide the user to wines they’ll like. I confess that I don’t have any idea, but isn’t this how most of these appholes sell their product? On the premise that you’ll never buy a bottle of wine you don’t like ever again if you download their app. What kind of an idiot thinks that will work? People who know a lot about wine constantly buy wines they don’t like, and they know what they hell they’re doing. You think a smartphone app is going to help? They’re the same people rating the wines and giving advice for the stupid app you keep referring to on your smartphone. They might be wine experts, but they don’t know shit either!

Everything I’ve read recently about Millennials and how they buy wine claims that they are eschewing established (read “old”) wine critics and buying wine based on the recommendation of their peers. So why in the world would they download a wine app? Some wine apps are based on reviews and ratings, some are based on a conglomeration of reviews by other users of the app (think CellarTracker), and some, like Wine Ring, use the opinions of wine industry experts to focus your selections. So, as it turns out, kids, it’s not really your smartphone making the recommendation. It’s still the Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate, and the other folks who rate wines for a living. Or it’s a bunch of clowns on a website competing for the most wine reviews posted. It’s a virtual wine world out there. You can pretend to be a hero on “Dungeons and Dragons,” or you can pretend to be a wine expert on CellarTracker! Fantasy is fun! With Wine Ring, apparently your taste is analyzed by a program which then finds other wines to match your taste, based on the opinions of, well, wine experts.

The Wine Ring website has my new favorite pair of oxymorons. It's called both an “Essential Wine App” and a “Crucial Wine App.” The “Essential” quote is from a piece entitled, "The Seven Essential Wine Apps." But the real question is, how essential are you if there are six other essential apps? It’s like saying Dopey is the Essential Dwarf. On the site, the article says of Wine Ring, “In some cases, it will even tell you if you like a wine before you buy it.” Wait. Isn't that the fucking point? I don't really need the app to tell me I like a wine after I buy it. That's like paying for yesterday's weather report. How stupid are the people at There's a rhetorical question. And why would you take their advice?

Ray Isle (which I thought was where you bought skate at the fish market) of Food and Wine Magazine is the writer who calls Wine Ring one of the seven “Crucial” wine apps. In the same article, Isle recommends two websites for buying wine, Amazon and Yeah, so he’s hip. Buying your wine on Amazon is like shopping for lingerie at Eddie Bauer. So, Ray, you sign up on Wine Ring, rate a dozen crappy wines you bought at the supermarket, then go to Amazon and see what Wine Ring recommends, and that’s how you learn about wine? Wow. It’s like learning about food from Swanson TV dinners--which, coincidentally, is one of the seven Crucial TV dinners. (And you should see the wine blogs Isle recommends…)

I also love Wine Ring’s answer to one of their FAQ, “What is a Master of Wine? A Master Sommelier?” The answer is:

“Both are expert in wine, and study for years to develop their ability to taste.  Our wine experts taste thousands of wines a year so you don’t have to!  You just get recommendations based on your individual preferences.”

Waddya know? I’m a Master of Wine and a Master Sommelier. That was easy. Which explains a lot.

Google and Amazon, and others, build massive facilities that consume inconceivable amounts of energy so that appholes can post photographs of empty wine bottles, their latest meal, and other signs of their importance and status. It’s the new pornography. I need to remember to wear my Wine Ring.


Unknown said...

I have a wine app - it's called Darrell Corti.

I do use CellarTracker, but not to purchase wine. I got on it for insurance purposes in case my house burns down (I'm in NorCal) and the AAA rep needs my inventory.
What amuses me when I read CT is when an individual post 32 reviews from visiting 3 tasting rooms in one afternoon. Swirl, Sip, (and if that person is smart), Spit. That's all one needs to ascertain the ageability of a Paso GSM?
I guess I've been doing it wrong these past 20 years

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Corti is a great wine app, but he takes so damned long to download on your phone.

Anonymous said...

This may be a little off point, but is that a photograph of Lo Hai Qu? I've been wondering what she's been up to ...

Eric V. Orange said...

"A couple of soon-to-be-former friends of mine are involved with a new wine app called “Wine Ring.”"

Too funny Hose. There goes your Christmas....


Ron Washam, HMW said...

No, that's me. If it were Lo, there'd be smoke...

Oh, man, the first Christmas mention of the year...depressing.

Fenton said...

Oh Hose, I love my wine app. Of course, iWine is just a tool to inventory what I have in my cellar and doesn't dare to make recommendations. Think of it as an intern that gives a shit and remembers what is down there when you cannot--down there in the cellar I mean.

obillo said...

You'll never get anywhere with those cr-apps. What you want are the key definitive ones.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Inventory apps are useful, I would agree, though over the years I've abandoned whatever inventory tools I once used because I don't care. I have a pretty good idea of what wines are in my cellar, and the ones I've forgotten about are simply pleasant surprises when I uncover them. I gave up being anal about my wine a long time ago.

This piece is aimed at the advice-giving apps. Remember when apps meant appetizers?


Tom In Real Life said...

Out of curiosity I visited their website, and clicked on "To the Trade". Turns out these appholes are also data-mining and then selling it to restaurants, retailers and supplier/producers so they can "customize" selections based on user preferences. So not only can you base ill informed decisions on your own lack of knowledge... you can share it with others. Wow. Wine Apps, the 11th circle of hell right after Christmas music played on an accordion.

Anonymous said...

Former friends? I don't think so. If there's one thing we love more than a blind book review, it's a blind app review! Expect us for dinner later. We'll get a group recommendation. "One ring to rule them all!" You can use your ring and we’ll use ours. We look forward to more laughs (to be clear, I meant at your blog, not at your ring finger.) XOXOXOXO Amy

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Well, when I see something for free, something that took years of work, I know that there's income around somewhere, and on the internet that always means selling your information. Or, also, creating an app so influential and universally used that you can then sell it for a lot of money.

Knowing some of the people involved, it's probably a pretty good app. It's not aimed at me, or at others who are "wine experts." In the end, it's aimed at people's insecurity about wine more than their curiosity. So it will probably work.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

You know the old showbiz saw, "It doesn't matter what they say about you as long as they talk about you." So, yeah, I'm just trying to help. If I had a smartphone, I'd have downloaded it and taken it for a spin. So that when I enter Apothic Red as "Love It!" it recommends I buy a Snickers.

Or does it always just recommend Holus Bolus?

Oh, I can't wait to see you and the girls for dinner! But the only ring I have is around my bathtub.

I adore you. I hope Wine Ring does well. Hey, I put a link!


Samantha Dugan said...

My Love,
You had me at appholes. Fucking brilliant.
I love you!

Aaron said...

So, Wine Ring almost got me. I even installed it and everything at a particular tasting event. Then about 3 days later I uninstalled it because I realized it wasn't going to do me any good because I don't want to be told I'll like this wine or that wine. I just want to buy the bottle and drink it and find out!

Slightly aside, for CellarTracker, I use it as inventory and to sometimes get a general feel if a bottle I have is tasting well based on others comments. Otherwise, I mostly ignore other reviews. Heck, a good chunk of the wines I have don't have any user reviews, or even "Pro Reviews". Wait...does that make me a hipster because I like strange wines from Slovenia, Hungary, or tiny oddball Santa Barbara wineries? Oh no!

And now if you want to get really all wine geeked out, I just got a bunch of NFC tags that I can put on my bottles, so that when I pull one out and drink it I can just tap my phone and be brought directly to the CellarTracker bottle page, hit drink, and then be done. Instead of having to search to the wine page, then find the bottle (if I have more than one), then hit drink. So...yea. I'm a bit OCD when it comes to a few things being organized in my life. My wine, my movies (on my HDD), and my photos in Lightroom.

Paul in St. Augustine said...

Swanson Frozen Dinners turned into this:

(With apologies to Bob Henry)

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,
Yeah, I came up with appholes, but when I Googled it, out of curiosity, it turned out Jon Stewart coined it a long time ago. I thought it might be too obvious to be original, and I was right. But I'm happy I'm on the save wavelength as The Daily Show was.

I love you, too!

I think you've hit on the fundamental weakness of the app. It sort of takes the fun out of wine shopping. Picking a random wine based on the label, or the region, or the name is what, I think, wine lovers like. Or maybe not. I've seen some cool apps on smartphones (other people's phones), but none that related to wine. Those all seemed ultimately useless, aside from, as you say, an app that simply keeps track of your wine.

Wine has always been about being trendy, and right now it seems like Slovenia, Croatia, Corsica and English Sparkling wines are trending. Nothing wrong with that, and novelty is good, but, yes, you're a hipster. If you want to be "different" these days, drink Napa Zin or something like that.

Yup. And nothing better than Swanson Merlot after 10 minutes in the microwave.

Aaron said...


How about drinking Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir? Or a GSM from Paso or Santa Barbara? ;) Although I suppose that loving a dry Furmit from Tokaji is kinda on the hipster side...

Unknown said...

I don't have a smart phone either, guess I'll have to break down someday but holding out as long as possible.. I used to think it was beyond boorish with all these appholes addicted to their phones during dinner, conversations, etc.. but it's so the norm now, you're the asshole if you say, "will you put that fucking phone away.. got some good advice the other day when I expressed this opinion and the guy said, you go out to dinner, people put their phones in the centre of the table and the first one that starts texting picks up the check...

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Oh, it's all good. The great thing about wine is that you can study and drink it for a lifetime and never even get close to tasting everything. When wines become classics, they also tend to get expensive, so why not seek out the new, the unusual, the affordable? Everybody's out there banging their own drum--and by the way, if you do that, wear a condom, or a Wine Ring. Every region, every style, every grape seems to have its supporters, and they make a lot of noise. And it's fun to taste an interesting wine and see what it does for you. I recently tasted a Rossese di Dolceaqua that I loved, and today I was drinking a Sandlands Trousseau that was gorgeous. Once a geeky sommelier, always a geeky sommelier.

Me, I never cared that much for dry Furmint. And Furmint always sounds to me like candy you dropped on the dirty floor.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

I'm not especially proud that I don't have a smartphone. But, hell, I don't need one. It's the new smoking. All it does is annoy everyone else, and it's, more than anything else, a terrible addiction. But I'm old, and I hate people, so don't go by me.

As for dinner, I think the guy without a phone should never have to pay.

Unknown said...

And all this time I thought a Sandlands Trousseau was what a bride brought to the wedding? You mean you can drink someone's Trousseau? Now I feel like a real Apphole...

Wineskillguy said...

Who needs free apps anyway when you can have the isommelier Smart Decanter, it's "the solution to eliminate all limitations" they say, and it's only like $1250.

Aaron said...

Are you kidding me? Seriously? I'm a bit aghast at that device. And this one which I found when searching for the other [url][/url]. Much better bargain, only $250!

Although to be honest, I'd be intrigued to do a side-by side blind tasting of 2 identical bottles from each device. But until I win the lotto, I can't afford inanities like those. I just need a decent $5 wine key, a decent carafe, and let time take it's natural course while enjoying the company of friends :) That way I can buy another few bottles of something special to enjoy with them!

Aaron said...

*sigh* And then there's this bizarre thing Pairing wine & a playlist for "emerging artists", which can only be listened to via their browser based music player.