Rip-off wine markups? There’s an app for that.

Andy Hayler is living proof that being a software entrepreneur can actually season globe-trotting gastronautismological ambitions. And he has finally managed to combine both careers, commercially, with the launch of Wine Search, an iPhone app that checks the price of erm…wine.

Having sold only 20,000 apps at £1.49 each, probably amounting to around a month’s wages in his heyday, I challenged Andy that he had not yet even covered the development costs. He replied that the dev costs were “actually not that high” and reported the venture as profitable.  Fair enough, worth a try then.

In fact, the application is a basic front end linked to an API to This is software lingo for “it uses someone else’s database”.  In this case a well-established, but US centric, search engine that is not supported well enough (by retailers). Not yet anyway.

The concept is brilliant.  Simply turn up at Gordon Ramsay’s latest 3 Michelin star dining emporium and ask for the wine list.  Browse the pages, discreetly poke a few characters into the app under your napkin, and then confront the Sommelier: “Aha, how can you justify charging £134 for this Andre Perret Condrieu Chery 2007 when I can buy it retail in Tiddlypong, Iowa for a mere $30?”

And that is the problem.  The success of this app depends on the success of and, in the UK so far, it simply needs more data.

Perspective though.  For £1.49, it is a no-brainer to download. If you ever eat out. If you ever buy non-supermarket wine from retail outlets (including online), you could get your money back many times over with just one success. I put wonga back in my wallet by buying a bottle of 2004 Ygay Gran Reserva (Wine Search average price, £43) for less than £30 from Costco. Reassurance that I am not being fleeced, and the Rioja was delish.

Personally, I abhor huge markups on wine and have long campaigned against such on this blog. I used to write down a few prices from a restaurant wine list that looked suspicious and check prices against sites like wine-searcher when I got home. At least I can do this in vivo now.

If this app merely pricks the conscience of restaurants that overcharge (and I will single out GAUCHO GRILLS, the Ryanair of restaurants, yet again), then my £1.49 will have been very well spent.

Wine Search via the App Store.

For legal reasons I will repeat the App Store health warning: “Infrequent/Mild Alcohol, Tobacco, Drug Use or References to these”. No shit – Really??? I’m off to write iSpliff and iBinge – let’s see what Apple makes of those.

Disclosure, Andy Hayler owes me £1.49 for writing this review (I reckon). Writing is not as well paid as software is it….

2 Responses to “Rip-off wine markups? There’s an app for that.”

  1. The Sediment Blog Says:

    When restaurants were jumping onto the iPad bandwagon, and offering customers their wine lists on iPads, this was the first thing which came to mind. With an iPad in your hands, it’s easy to check the online price, and challenge a sommelier.
    (Whether that’ll get anywhere other than the pavement, of course, another matter…)

    But as far as UK prices are concerned, have you tried Vinopedia? You can actually specify UK prices, and it has more UK wine merchants than wine-searcher. (And you don’t need an app – just bookmark it on your smartphone.)

  2. Alastair Bathgate Says:

    Thanks, I’ll take a look.
    Do Vinopedia have any plans to launch an app? Much easier than browsing on an iPhone.
    Or maybe Mr Hayler can find the API and add the data to Wine Search?

    Either way it would be good to find a market leader or two (Toptable and Opentable style) that are the “go to” resources for wine prices.
    However, I am still not sure that there is enough support yet from the big retailers and especially etailers.

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