Wine Picker was created by a sommelier so restaurants don’t need a sommelier.
Finding wine pairing recommendations isn't too difficult. But as any avid drinker knows, wine can be quite complex. Even the same style of vino can vary greatly in its profile depending on things like origin and producer. It’s one of the reasons restaurants have sommeliers: They know the subtleties of the wine list, allowing for more detailed pairings. With this in mind, a sommelier helped launch a wine app with a potentially killer feature: it uses a restaurant’s actual wine list to make its recommendations, regardless of whether or not there's a somm on staff.
First released last spring, Wine Picker is the brainchild of sommelier Julien Sahut and CEO Josselin Guibert. The idea is surprisingly simple (even if the extent of the necessary data collection is extremely difficult): Make an app that mimics the actual sommelier experience. Users select a restaurant, let the app know what their budget is and the food they’re ordering, and then the app presents the top wines off the restaurant’s actual wine list based on a mix of expert opinions and user feedback. “Wine Picker works like a sommelier’s brain and shows you the best wines matching your budget,” Sahut recently told the Evening Standard.
Though the app has focused mainly on the U.K., it’s actually gained a growing U.S. following. “[Starting around] November, about five times as many U.S. users as U.K. users have downloaded Wine Picker,” Guibert told us via email. “This has shifted our user base to be mainly U.S. now.” Still, he said that currently the app only has wine lists from about 150 American restaurants, with the San Francisco Bay Area being the most prevalent hub.
Needless to say, in such a large country with so many restaurants, it’s hard for Wine Picker to cover everywhere in the U.S., but that’s actually where users can help both the app—and each other—out. “There is an option allowing users to submit the wine list of their favorite restaurant,” Guibert said. Simply dig into the app’s menu, find the “Post a wine list” option, and submit.
Overall, Wine Picker is far from perfect: Since its best feature is so dependent on crowdsourced data, it needs a lot more users to be effective in more places. And even then, wine lists can change, so it’s easy to see how the app could be less effective over time if it doesn’t get actively updated. That said, if the app is able to reach critical mass, the underlying idea has huge potential for people looking for wine pairing advice at restaurants: no real sommelier needed.