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What’s the Ultimate Killer App in Wine Technology?

A few weeks ago, I met an editor for lunch at SD26, an Italian restaurant in New York’s Flatiron district noted for its outstanding wine selection.

“Would you like to see the wine list, madam?” the perfectly starched server inquired. But of course!

“May I show you how it works?” Huh?

It turned out to be an iPad wine list. Although it didn’t really require much instruction, it’s a nifty toy and a great way to quickly and easily navigate a wine list. My editor zipped through to by-the-glass wines, sorted by sparklers, and in short order we were sipping flutes of crisp Prosecco. Yes, SD26 still provides printed menus for analog types, but the iPad was a lot more fun. No wonder so many technophiles have declared the iPad to be the “killer app.”

In the Financial Times, wine maven Jancis Robinson recently wrote about the changing relationship between restaurants and wine, and notes how technology is changing how diners interact with wine lists. In addition to the iPad (by the way, here’s her list of the restos who are getting the iPad wine list right – including SD26), Robinson also notes that an increasing number of restaurants post their wine list online, “for pre-emptive study by real wine enthusiasts.”

More and more, technology seems to be changing the way we interact with wine. Some are useful, like wine apps for mobile phones that assist with selecting and finding wines, and suggesting pairings. Drync and NatDecants are two that have found broad acclaim. Others, like the Enomatic wine-serving machines found in stores and wine bars encourage fast, unfettered by-the-glass sampling. (I’m still waiting for this technology to be extended to serving shots of whiskey.)

But some wine-related technologies are just plain silly. For example, I went to a wine bar that projected teeny images of bottles across a countertop. Customers were encouraged to jab the bottles with their fingertips, which would open a screen with info about the wine. Unless, of course, you jabbed the wrong teeny wine bottle, which was remarkably easy, in which case you got information you didn’t even want. The system couldn’t be used to order or obtain wine – it was purely informational, and frankly, it got old after about a minute.

If I’m going to jab my fingers about, I’d rather expend that energy on a push-button corkscrew. It might be pushing it to call this gizmo “wine technology.” But in my mind, anything that gets me closer to having a drink in hand – well, that’s the ultimate killer app.