Wine lovers of all stripes often wonder out loud about the astonishing amount of wine available in the U.S. market.

Some estimates put the the number of available wine SKU’s (an individual wine made available for sale) at over 65,

Truly, it’s hard to navigate so much choice.

Ironically, 65,000 is also the number that has been attributed to the number of iPhone applications available for download — a figure that has quadrupled from 15,000 since February of this year.

Alas, for the wine enthusiast, there are no free passes — navigating the number of wine applications available for the iPhone is nearly as difficult as navigating the wine aisle.  While there aren’t 65,000 wine-related iPhone apps., there are enough to cause you to seek solace with a bottle of vino.

Fortunately, wine enthusiasts are in luck.  Paul Mabray, assisted by his team at VinTank, a wine industry consultancy and think tank based in Napa, CA, publishes periodic “Pulse Reports” designed to help the wine industry and consumers bring order to chaos around various topics at the intersection of technology and wine.

Mabray can’t help you in the wine aisle, but he can help you save time, money and effort in choosing the right wine-related iPhone application for your phone.

Presented in two parts (Read Pt. II), Mabray takes a turn as guest author at Palate Press to present his analysis of 50+ iPhone apps, a first person “Pulse Report” on the wine-related apps. that are worth the time, money and effort to earn real estate on your phone.  In today’s report, Mabray leads up to the Top 5 iPhone apps. (posted on Tuesday, October 6th) by reviewing the balance of the apps. that didn’t make the top tier.

“Hey! How about we develop an iPhone app!”

By: Paul Mabray, Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, VinTank

(Part 1 of 2)

If you work in any consumer facing industry, you’ve surely heard those words before. And now our little wine community paulseems to have caught the fever. But before you send out one of your marketers to research and develop, I’d caution you to carefully think it through before proceeding.

There are dozens upon dozens of wine related applications (apps) now available for the iPhone, with many more in development, and they are stirring a general undercurrent of consumer confusion over what – exactly – is available and what is the relative value to a user?  Which app is the best and for what wine purpose? What’s the difference between this one and that one? Should I spend money on this? How should wineries or consumers interact with them, if at all?

I searched and pulled together a large pool of wine applications and spread them into categories based on their capabilities, functionality, overall performance and impact on both the market and the consumer. Disclaimer: I am well aware that I did not find all of them, but after 50 I decided that was plenty for my purposes.

In doing so, I purchased or downloaded each application, put them through a comprehensive user test drive and conducted interviews with developers where possible. Afterwards, with over 50 developed wine applications reviewed, I was able to determine the following:

  • The majority of iPhone applications have very similar features with widely varying prices.
  • The applications run the gamut from community-centric to industry-powered advertising vehicles with a number of apps functioning as simple “time killers.”
  • There are very few business-to-business (B2B) apps.

So, like my team at VinTank and I often do in our Pulse Reports, I picked just five applications that meet the VinTank criteria for a “RECOMMENDED APP” notice, meeting our standards for performance, relevance and ingenuity.  These apps will be presented in Part II of this post on Tuesday.

Now what to do with the remaining 45+? The balance of the applications outside of my top five were placed into groups based on a subsequent ranking:

  • Applications with potential ranked high and those without forward potential ranked at the bottom.

Notes about applications: 

I used obvious factors to measure the apps, shown at that top of the “recommended apps”. However, below are the additional criteria used to further segment the analysis:

  • Apps that were “free” received additional consideration.
  • Apps that had a high level of users received additional scrutiny and consideration.
  • Extra scrutiny was given to apps that were journaling, wine review, food pairing, or store locator tools based on a plethora of choice for applications of this type.
  • Additional consideration went to apps that integrated with Facebook, Twitter, or any of the wine social networks.
  • All apps that were only content, like a book or printed reference guide, converted to an app were given a 3.  Although the content is valuable, I believe the application value was created to distribute the content vs. acting as an application that delivers functionality and value.
  • In a few apps I had an inside view into the upcoming version that has been submitted (or soon will be) to Apple for release.  This also factored into the review of the applications.





About Paul Mabray

Paul Mabray is founder and Chief Strategy Office for VinTank, a digital think tank for the wine industry.

Paul has been in the wine and spirits industry for over sixteen years. He founded Inertia Beverage Group in 2003 as one of the first technology providers created to bridge the barrier between wineries and their customers. Mabray was CEO from 2003 until 2008, creating the largest e-commerce platform for the wine industry, the Rethink Engine.  For his last six months at Inertia, Paul was Chief Strategy Officer and EVP of Business Development in charge of creating key strategic direction, business development, and mergers and acquisitions. VinTank is a continuation of his desire to help revolutionize the wine industry through e-business and innovative digital products and marketing.

For more information visit

19 Responses

  1. Ed Thralls

    There is one wine app that I have found the most valuable and fortunately I did not see it on the lists above… hopefully it’s on the top 5 list tomorrow…

  2. tom merle

    I now begin to better understand the core role (business model) for VinTank. Not so much a traditional think tank–though there will be some broad commentary on trends similar in scope to what you might find on public policy issues by the American Enterprise Institute or the Economic Policy Institute–more a Consumer Reports or CNET for the wine industry, yes, but for consumers as well. If there is a suitable funding source, VT will continue to perform an extremely important function.

    Excellent essay, Paul, using the appropriate categories for zeroing in on the best. And how cool to use your logo, which like all good logotypes communicates several dimensions, but in this case can be used in the assessments.

  3. Todd Havens

    I second the kudos on the cool rating system VinTank created with their logo. You caught me off-guard with that one…and I like it!

    Looking forward to the big reveal tomorrow…to see if they’re in line with any of the apps I currently have on my iPhone, most of which I’ve yet to use to any discernible degree.

    Cheers to the comprehensive review!

  4. Ken Payton

    Does anybody here speak proper English? Paul’s post is unreadable. And Jeff’s intro is a series of non-sequiturs.

    There is nothing ‘ironic’ about the number of SKUs vis-a-vis the number of iPhone apps available for download. Jeff means ‘coincidental’.

    Paul writes, “I searched and pulled together a large pool of wine applications and spread them into categories based on their capabilities, functionality, overall performance and impact on both the market and the consumer.”

    Of course he has. An app’s ‘impact on both the market and the consumer’ is something Paul can responsibly comprehend. Sure.

    In this rapidly changing era of diminishing consumer confidence, talk of California as a ‘failed state’, of the expanding ‘gray market’ and of slash and burn retailers, we can be confident VinTank has exhaustively explored the app market.

    Unemployment. Is there an app for that?

    I look forward to the implementation of the FTC’s new Guidelines on Dec. 1st. VinTank will then be compelled to reveal their economic interests; why they promote some apps, but not others. Who is it they speak for? We shall see.

  5. JustJess

    Great stuff!!!

    Mo-Mo-Mo…bile Video Wine App!!!!!(holiday thoughts) I’m looking for that killer app that can do both well! All I’ve found is “no-go”! Do we have to build it!..No-No-No! Any that hit high marks for including video?

  6. tom merle

    Too harsh Ken. VinTank is focusing on best practices in the use of technology. They don’t presume nor can they address the Bigger Questions. Evaluating any aspect of business, an all encompassing term, will strengthen the market and do its small part in achieving the large societal goals now under attach.

  7. Cheap Apple iPhone

    Good iPhone article. I’ve bookmarked the page, I think you’ve many great pages. I look forward to reading more of your blogs pages in the future. Good luck with your site, thanks Patrick

  8. Roger

    You really should try the WineStein iPhone App. It’s an amazing wine food pairing App.

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