Everything must go digital. That’s what it feels like anyway. I reckon if the Luddites were around today they’d probably have blogs. I have had two digital vinous experiences over the last week or so that I thought were pretty interesting.
The ubiquitous “digital”. You want to go on a trip? Blog about it. Hey look, there is something that is, on the whole, totally meaningless. “INSTAGRAM THAT SHIT!” You want to go on a spiritual retreat to escape technology? Well there’s an app for that too. Does my tone suggest I am harbouring my own luddite tendencies? Not entirely, but I do get the feeling that wine farms in particular may be more worried about being digital, than working out if what they are doing really works for them.
So it was with a sort of trepidation that I approached what was called a “virtual tasting” by Bouchard Finlayson’s PR people. A virtual tasting? My imagination immediately ran riot and took me to a tavern in Skyrim. Of course it was far more more prosaic. Bouchard Finlayson’s winemaker, Peter Finlayson, would host a tasting via streaming video for a bunch of people who were sent bottles of Bouchard’s new vintage Chardonnays.
While I wasn’t sure I wanted to drink alone in front of a computer as it reminded me too much of my mIRC days, the idea seemed a novel one. For South Africa, at least. So I joined the 20 or so other invitees and watched Peter present the wines. We could ask questions, which was nice. But I had to wonder if anyone would have tuned in if they had not been sent the wines? It seemed like another case of the South African online wine circle jerk. The same people tweeting, blogging, etc. If they could use the same setup to talk to international clients – at various wine bars, perhaps – then I think the benefit of a virtual tasting is obvious. No doubt, it’s an interesting development that I’m going to keep my eye on. But without the wine in front of you, it’s all just a little too academic.
The other digital happening recently, and one which I am really excited about, was the launch of the Real Time Wine app. I have – sort of – been involved with Real Time Wine since founder Andy Hadfield launched it as a Posterous blog. The initial idea was to have twitter length wine reviews, without using any “wine words”. So no sweaty saddle, malolactic fermentation, acid, tannin, and the like. The notion was to keep things as simple as possible, with a score out of 10 and the price. When I saw it I thought it a fantastic way get people express wine differently, and also hopefully help consumers choose which to buy.
Here is one of my early contributions:
Neil Ellis Groenekloef Sauvignon Blanc 2010. Smell: Kiwi & granadilla. Taste: grassy herbs & pineapple. End result: Fist pump. Splendidly balanced; tight, but at ease.
The blog has now turned into a fully fledged app, designed to help local consumers with choosing wines by crowd sourcing the reviewing process. It looks great. A welcome change – for me at least – is that instead of an out of 10 score, there are YUM or YUK buttons. This appeals tremendously to me, as I am a fan of Tom Robbins. (If you get the reference I’ll buy you a glass of wine sometime.) Also, I never liked the scoring part.
If Real Time Wine can get enough users, then I think it will be a truly useful tool for the South African Wine consumer. Although, my one concern is that there are simply too many wines for a truly meaningful crowdsourced scores to emerge. But now that is in app form, it will be something I am going to be continually checking, and I bet wineries will too.
I asked Andy a couple of questions about the app and how it has faired after the recent launch.
ME: What is Real Time Wine and what do you want it to achieve (apart from making you cash)?
Andy: It’s aggregated consumer opinion on a social platform. Not built around ecommerce or long form content, but built around usefulness.
I want to get more people drinking wine. I don’t want them to be scared off by the fairly daunting ecosystem that is wine and wine content. And I want to make it easier and more fun for them to drink good wine. Wine is such an awesome hobby. I think more people should take it up!
ME: So how’s it going a week or so after the launch?
Andy: Great! Look, it’s hard to benchmark what “1 week success” is in such a niche industry, especially considering the first launch phase was aimed at South Africans only. I mean, we only have about 1 million potential wine drinkers in the country. Of which you can scratch out 400k of them (Autumn Late Harvest Crackling baby!). That’s a small market.
About one and a half weeks in we’re sitting on 1200 downloads of the app. 800 registered users (remember you don’t have to register to get use out of the app – only when you want to contribute content). On day 5, our users did 53 wine reviews in 1 day. That’s not too shabby. Because we’re not talking tapping YUM or YUK. We’re talking checking in to a wine and leaving a comment/review.
Also remembering that you can use Real Time Wine on your mobile browser, our total “unique people” we’ve had the pleasure of virtually clinking glasses with is approaching 4000.
Me: Nice. I guess the best way to find out about the app is to use it. Where can we get it, and on what phones/devices does it work?
Andy: Real Time Wine will work nicely on about 5-6 million of the 8.5 million smartphones in the country. Some of the oooold Nokias are still considering smartphones, and while it’ll work, it’ll be a bit slow. We’re targeting all iPhones, all Android devices 2.3 and up to 60% of blackberries and the new-ish Nokias. If that sounds vague, you’ll understand how complex the mobile market is!
Mobile browser: http://realtimewine.com
Apple App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/real-time-wine/id537695945?mt=8
Google Play Android Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.real_time_wine
It’s also available on the Samsung South Africa store and the Amazon Android store.
There is also a point system involved, Andy said they are “building a Klout for wine”. It’s a really interesting project, and just as soon as I get my new phone – I dropped my last one in a glass of Port – I’ll be back reviewing for Real Time Wine. My worry’s that crowd reviews will get you crowd favourites rather than good wines. Thus far, this has been confirmed as the most popular wine on Real Time Wine is the Diemersfontein Pinotage. I will have to log on and start reviewing some really good stuff to keep it all balanced. Have you used the app? What do you think?
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