Is That a Sommelier in Your Pocket?

When wine meets tech, the possibilities are endless

With the mini computers we carry it is really hard to imagine anything they couldn’t do. So it is no wonder that vino enthusiasts and wine clubs are taking a virtual approach when it comes to picking the perfect vintage. From label-to-door deliveries to a platform that treats your palate like a dating profile, the latest entrepreneurial renaissance is adding a little tech to those tannins.

How many times have you stared at a menu, desperately searching for the Chianti that you tried back in Florence? Or how about that time you savored a distinct Meritage over a meal with friends? You couldn’t tastefully commandeer the empty bottle for further research, and a photo would likely end up in the slew of arbitrary images housed in your gallery abyss. Alas, you settle for the “comfort wine,” the one you turn to because you recognize the label from your local shop.

Behold Drync, the digital answer to your monotony. Developed in 2008, this handy app allows you to take a picture of the label you like, learn more about it and have it delivered straight to your door.

“You have this phone with you all the time," explains Brad Rosen, CEO and Founder of Drync. "Wouldn’t it be great if you could learn more, demystify the experience and buy it on the spot?”

For Rosen and his Boston-based team, Drync is about taste, exposure and access. “Local retailers only carry 1-to-2,000 wineries,” he explains. “And there are more than 38,000 worldwide.”

Through a robust database, Drync is able to cut out the middleman and give imbibers access to small estates and unique vintages. But that’s not all: Drync is also working to build a virtual community, one where your tastes collide with those of your friends for perfect pairings and flawless recommendations.

“It turns out when you survey people, 80 percent will say that they make buying decisions based off of what their friends say.” He explains. “We want to break down the barriers and increase the trust."

And with more than 100 million vino drinkers to attract and a $300-billion market to break into, Drync’s midrange options (bottles starting at $30) and pocket-sized accessibility mean a full-bodied experience for tech-savvy users and aficionados alike. 

But Drync isn’t the only wine-infused tech venture. When it comes to empowering the newbies, the casual drinkers who don’t know a Pinot Noir from a Merlot, Club W is ready to fit the bill. 

“Wine is complicated,” explains Xander Oxman, CEO of Club W. “But that's also part of the beauty. However, not everyone has access to a professional sommelier to help guide us and pick our next bottle. Club W is bridging that gap by creating recommendations that are based on your individual tastes and preferences - all at the convenience of using your phone or laptop.”

Using a unique Palate Profile (a la Match.com and OurTime.com), these virtual experts narrow in on your personal taste with seven simple questions. This quick survey will help broaden your vine knowledge one sip at a time. Similar to Drync, Club W cuts out the middleman to get you the varietal or blend that suits your palate at a reasonable price. For $39 a month, Oxman and his team will hand select three bottles for you to experience.  But don’t let the $13 price point fool you; this company isn’t skimping on quality.

“We build direct relationships with vineyards and farmers to make exceptional small lot wines at prices that are impossible to achieve at retail,” explains Oxman. “By doing this, we are creating the most sustainable and direct route between the two most important parts in the equation - craft wine and customers.” 

So you've developed a taste and appreciation for the good stuff,  now where do you store it in the ever-decreasing footprints we live in? From your postage-stamp apartment in Brooklyn to your trendy loft in downtown LA, there is little room for your robust art collection let alone your ever-increasing wine stock.

Enter: Underground Cellar

Through a members-only model, Brandan Zaucha and his team leverage vineyard relationships and the cloud to get unique finds and precious rarities into the hands of avid drinkers without fear of spoilage.

"We’ve featured over 250 wineries to date," Zaucha explains. "We’re a daily deal site that features new wineries every day or so. We hope to feature over 500 wineries over the next year."

According to Zaucha, members can view, sort and flaunt their collections while Underground Cellar does the grunt work. They find the vineyards, select the best blends and then hold onto it for you until your cravings kick in.

“We store the wine in Napa Valley under ideal conditions,” he explains. “This allows people who don’t have the space or proper storage conditions to store their wine collection. This also allows them the ability to grow the bigger collection they want.” (Shipping for six bottles will cost you $5, and shipping 12 or more bottles is free) 

But what makes this e-commerce newcomer unique? It isn’t just the fact that it showcases a collection of premium, rare and vintage wines. Underground Cellar members can essentially strike bubbly bingo when they are randomly selected for upgrades ($25 for a rare bottle worth $125? I’ll take it!)

In an industry that has strong ties to tradition and complexity, technology is coming in to level the playing field. Breaking down barriers from access to storage, these apps (and many more) are changing the way we smell, swirl and sip earth’s precious nectar.