The Daily App: WineRatings+ -- Find the Perfect Glass of Vino
Riesling, Chardonnay, Pouilly-Fume, Chenin Blanc, Gerwurtztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris... confused already?
That list doesn't include wines from Italy, Australia, New Zealand and even Oregon! The universe occupied by oenophiles unfurls in a pleasant haze of subtle aromas, intriguingly foreign-sounding names and often arcane terminology.
It's a sophisticated milieu that many would like to explore, but figuring out how to navigate all those terms, labels and appellations is intimidating, especially when all you're looking for is a great bottle of wine to take to a dinner party or buy for that night's dinner.
Wine Spectator, one of the most respected publications devoted to the drink, is aiming to help both beginners and experts unravel those sometimes unruly vines. And WineRatings+, its new app, promises to appeal to all levels of wine appreciation, making a rarefied world more easily accessible to newbies while aiming to bring up-to-date, exhaustive reviews to connoisseurs.
What's the App?
Developed by Wine Spectator's publishing company M. Shanken for iOS, WineRatings+ is a comprehensive wine resource in app format, with an aim to educate wine lovers newer to the field while also offering serious wine lovers a wealth of on-the-go information, available right at their fingertips.
The app is a mix of free and premium content: news, videos, instructional articles and vintage charts are available for free, but the comprehensive database of wine reviews and ratings requires an in-app subscription of $3 a month.
The free content is a superb mix for wine beginners, featuring topics like how to serve wines, how to pair wines with food and what to look for in both red and white varieties. The layout is as elegant as the magazine itself, laying out the fundamentals of wine in an accessible, eye-pleasing way. It's intuitive and easy to navigate, though playing too much of the video content did cause the app to crash upon testing.
If you've ever wanted an introduction to wine course in your pocket, Wine Spectator's app provides a lovely equivalent, breaking down a complex, rich tradition in easy-to-grasp pieces.
You'll Want It If...
If you've ever been befuddled by a wall of wine selections and just picked out a bottle with the nicest label, WineRatings+ is the app for you, especially as a knowledgeable but not overwhelming introductory resource. Not only will it educate you on the basics, but the vintage charts accessible in the free version are a great resource in helping you learn about the wide varieties of wine, and what makes them different and unique from one another.
Covering over 50 of the world's principal wine regions and grape varieties, it details the overall quality and character of each region's offerings, as well when they're best bought and consumed. The information is constantly updated, making it a perfect pocket advisor.
It's Not My Thing, What Else Ya Got?
Of course, sometimes you just want to know: Are all these Barefoot wines okay? Is this $25 bottle really better than the $12 one? Being able to access a simple review and rating would simply tell you, making it so much easier. Wine Spectator, unfortunately, held this kind of information for the premium app, so if you're eyeing WineRatings+ for its well-established authoritative and exhaustive reviews, keep in mind that you're going to pay a pretty penny for them.
Of course, Wine Spectator knows its comprehensive database is one of its key selling points, no matter what the medium. The premium in-app subscription give you access to over 270,000 of the world's most authoritative and reliable wine reviews, complete with detailed tasting notes, recommended drinking windows, editor recommendations and more. The app promises to add 1,000-plus reviews every month, as well. With such an encyclopedic wealth of knowledge available only to subscribers, the free version of the app best serves newbies, and real connoisseurs either have to pony up or look elsewhere.
Judging from the rancorous comments in its App Store page, however, many feel the $3-per-month price is too high, especially for subscribers who already get the print and online version of the magazine. Indeed, an in-app subscription essentially gives you full access to a stripped-down publication, ported to the mobile format. The debate poses interesting questions that magazines and other publications must answer when getting into the mobile game -- is it enough to merely repackage information from print and online versions into the app format?
In this sense, WineRatings+ is somewhat of a disappointment, especially since it doesn't leverage the geolocation or scanning capabilities so many apps incorporate into their functionality. Future iterations of the app would do well to include such features, perhaps making the app truly unique and suited for the mobile devices it's carried on -- and justifying its price to an outspoken customer base. ♦
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