As a member of the smartphone generation, I’m constantly asked which wine apps I use. “Uh, Wine-Searcher,” is a rather unsatisfactory answer, so here’s a list featuring the best of the rest
Whether you need wine apps depends on what you want. For comparing prices, Wine-Searcher (especially Wine-Searcher Pro) remains my favourite. Beyond facilitating comparison shopping locally, its worldwide delivery filter allows you to source great overseas deals. For US$65 a year, you need never overpay for wine again. NB: listings are only as accurate as their respective websites; Wine-Searcher doesn’t verify all listings.
Most reviewers like the Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and Vinous have apps, but they aren’t big improvements on the websites. Functions like label scanning and community reviews are more obvious candidates for app-ification. Vivino’s worldwide network of more than 35 million amateur reviewers is formidable, but I’d always wondered whether a localised, socially focused app had traction in Asia. China, as always, has plentiful homegrown options like 9KaCha, Dr Wine and Hesha (a wine/dating app, a combo that clearly needed to happen). However, all seem to have veered towards e-commerce with a mere sprinkle of social. WeChat Wine is currently a cross-border e-commerce solution, but I’m watching this space. Redsip, an app vying to be China’s “Facebook of wine,” has yet to be launched fully but could be interesting.
Beyond apps, what about online wine influencers? Does Asia have equivalents of the charming Wine Folly blog or the pugilistic YouTuber Gary Vaynerchuk (aka Gary Vee)? I asked wine industry friends who they felt were contenders.
The “real players”—those with vast audiences beyond the wine cognoscenti—are Chinese social media stars turning attention into sales through proprietary e-commerce platforms, often focused on the mass market. Lady Penguin, aka Karla Wang, a Brown and Cordon Bleu graduate (and Generation T Lister), has riled up China’s wine distributors by providing radical pricing transparency to her two-million-plus Douyin followers and 8,000 wine club members.
The even more populist figure Beef Brother on Douyin bundles very inexpensive wine (e.g. 99 yuan for six bottles) with beef. Others who have carved out profitable niches are Miss Yuan on Taobao, whose focus is sweet wine, and Yang Jiang of V&C Wine (JD.com’s top wine store), though it’s heavily stocked with the usual suspects (Penfolds, Yellow Tail, Brown Brothers) that arguably sell themselves.
10 Timeless Wines To Drink While You Browse Wine Apps
Claret for the ages—La Conseillante 2005: We all know Pétrus (fewer of us can afford it). However, teeny Pomerol’s other stars remain lesser known because, unlike elsewhere in Bordeaux, there is no official classification to highlight them. La Conseillante is more than deserving, with lusciousness befitting the world’s greatest merlot region. This vintage is as luxuriant as a floor-length mink coat but with a stiletto spike of acidity to balance it.
Burgundy to bring tears to your eyes (and not for its price tag)—Red: Clos des Lambrays 2015: The most affordable of “tradeable”, this red has always been a favourite of those in the know. It wafts a perfume of lavender, mossy herbals and cherry bitters, its texture like the dense velvet interior of a jewellery box. White: Domaine Hubert Lamy St Aubin Premier Cru En Remilly 2014: St Aubin, while a mere stone’s throw from the greatness of neighbouring Chassagne- and Puligny-Montrachet, isn’t quite in the league of those village’s top wines. However, under the deft hand of grower Olivier Lamy, this wine’s green apple and lemon fruit, smoky flint and toast, and firm-fisted, taut structure get you shockingly close.
The only champagne you’ll ever need—Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV: I crave grower champagne as much as the next wine geek, but this grower-like house farms an impressive proportion of its own vineyards and is actually Champagne’s largest biodynamic vine-grower. The Brut Premier is of exquisite quality (and value). Replete with roasted hazelnuts and nougat, it also ages shockingly well in bottle.
Barolo to wean yourself off Burgundy—Cappellano Piè Franco 2004: From an arch-traditionalist whose wines have inspired a cult-like following, these wines are more music than mere beverage. The archetypal 2004 enters the mouth with a dark cherry liqueur rumble, followed by cello-like strings of perfumed musk, clove and oud; the finish is morose and brooding, vibrating moodily in the mouth.
Rioja to wean yourself off Barolo
Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 2009
Arguably the most age-worthy red of them all because of the stabilising effects of extended barrel ageing, traditional Rioja will probably remain criminally inexpensive even as the prices of Burgundy and Barolo continue to soar. This Gran Reserva is the perfect coupling of lucent, pure strawberry fruit with piney, resinous complexity.
Australian gold rush
AP Birks Wendouree Shiraz Mataro 1998
The perfect riposte to those who’ve dismissed South Australian reds as ponderous and overbearing. While still reflecting the warmth of its origins, this blend’s complex aromas of medicine chest, furniture polish, quinine, iodine and eucalyptus are complemented by a sleek body without an acidic sting.
California dreaming in a bottle
Arnot-Roberts Syrah 2010
Probably the last thing you think of when you think “California red,” this now iconic coastal syrah embodies California’s edgy new wave. Dramatically low in alcohol and cool in demeanour, it exudes dried blueberry and tart cranberry, marmite, funk, subtle fizz and a white pepper tingle. Just so rad.
The Mosel with the most
Clemens Busch Marienburg GG Falkenlay 2014
From the unpromising-sounding village of Pünderich outside the Mosel’s riesling epicentre stems this prime example of why German almost-dry riesling is a white-hot category. Evoking honey water with lemon, lime blossoms and pine needles, this leaps into the sinuses like horseradish, continuing with a beautiful line of acidity.
The sweetest thing
Royal Tokaji 5 Puttonyos 2013
A sweet for those who’ll always pick a fruit tart over chocolate cake, this is the textbook definition of finesse and balance. 2013 was a great year for noble rot in Hungary’s Tokaj region, drawing out flavours of quince, apricot jelly, honeysuckle, mandarin marmalade and lime blossom tea, with a spear of acidity keeping the wine centred.