Appel on Wine: Best wine apps build on human interaction

Delectable and Vivino acknowledge subjectivity but develop that into a curated educational experience.

I’m not sure whether you need reminding as often as I do, but we are human beings. We’re a maze of feelings and desires that usually go unacknowledged. We shift moods and modes dramatically from moment to moment. It’s messy, and we’re helpless on our own. To be human, we need to find ways to connect with each other.

That’s a whole lotta platitude right off the bat, but I am continually drawn to such sentiments as I explore the ways in which I use technology, including wine-related apps for my mobile device. Such apps are increasingly common and diverse, and customers frequently ask me if there are any I like. The short answer is yes.

First of all, I ought to state my biases. I write about wine in a conventional, pre-Internet-2.0 format: for a newspaper. I claim a certain amount of expertise, and what I write passes by an editor’s eyes before it is published. The very structure of how my criticism is presented lends my perspective a position of privilege. The mode is hierarchical – vertical – for better and worse.

In the horizontal orientation of social media-based criticism, everyone is an expert, and no comment carries more inherent weight than any other. Therefore, the strongly – and often, vituperatively – expressed opinion tends to gain more notice. The mode is democratic, again for better and worse.

Apps that successfully balance the benefits of an hierarchy with those of a democracy prove most successful. The risk with too much of the former is tyranny; the risk with too much of the latter is chaos. An app that simply tells you what to drink is no better than a wine writer who does. An app that hurls you into a world of disembodied bits of information is usually unhelpful. Even if it gets you closer to a good wine choice, it takes you further from why wine matters.

Another of my biases is that I sell wine in a small retail shop, where direct communication between two human beings is the basic mode of exchange. From my perspective, a wine app whose intention is to aid a customer in selecting a bottle of wine would, at best, equip that customer with useful ways of having a conversation with someone else who is interested in wine. At worst, it would automate a transaction whose central value lies in human interaction.

The vast majority of apps tend toward the latter approach, leading you through a tree of choices to arrive at a recommendation. Tap “wine for an occasion,” and move on through “for a date” or “for a holiday” and so on, until you land on a crapshoot zinfandel. Tap “wine for pizza,” choose between a meat sauce or a white pie, end up with “barbera” or “chardonnay” respectively. Tap “I like merlot” and arrive at Ducktrap.

Ultimately, no matter where you start, you’re funneled toward a grape category and then three or seven actual wines. It’s like most other experiences in contemporary society: smooth, digital, pragmatic, airtight, disempowering.

Food without tomatoes or meat seems only to go with pinot grigio or chardonnay; who knew? And then, the pinot grigio wines that get recommended are going to be the most widely available brands. Chances of them being good wines are slim; the chances of them being at your local shop are slimmer.

The apps that hold out any hope of monetization are the ones that offer wine for delivery, right then and there. Once we can link it to a 3-D printer, we’ll have app-enabled wine on demand.

With the possible exception of those created by major wine publications based on content produced by their journalists, these apps offer no established relationship between user and recommender. They create an inhuman procedure, a deceptively “objective” transformation of something so essentially subjective.

This is where Delectable, and to a somewhat less successful extent, Vivino, step in. They acknowledge the fundamental subjectivity of wine but build that into an educational experience curated by people who come to earn your trust.

Both of these apps use social media that’s truly social, modeling themselves on the “follow” mode of Twitter and Instagram. On Delectable, you find people to follow through links to Facebook, Twitter, your own contacts or “wine pros.” Then, you use the app’s amazingly accurate photo-recognition software to post photos of wines you’ve drunk. You rate the wines, commenting if you like, and find what others have said about the wine. If someone says something smart and seems to have tastes or perspectives aligned with yours, follow them. Conversations begin and bring you to interesting places you otherwise wouldn’t have thought to visit.

Conversation is Delectable’s crucial power. Actual human beings on Delectable are talking to each other. A dynamic matrix of enthusiasts is creating a community around wine. Since the very aim of the app seems to be community and conversation, rather than commercial recommendations to the consumer, a large number of wine professionals are on it all the time. Sommeliers, winemakers, journalists and importers all post photos of the wines they’re drinking, not only (not even mostly) the wines they’re selling. Their conversations are about pleasure, vintage variation, experiences.

The tone feels real, above all. The comments can be fine-grained flavor notes or poetic emoting, or sometimes check-out-how-cool-I-am ego boosting, but they’re genuine. They’re how people who love wine talk about wine. Enthusiasm, rather than money, is the currency.

The opportunity for everyday consumers to listen in on conversations among professionals is crucial. Instead of being talked down to, one feels invited to participate, prodded to learn, encouraged to create. If the majority of paint-by-the-numbers wine apps are the boring math class you were told would improve your logical thinking skills, Delectable is the welding internship that convinced you to become an engineer. Delectable is fleshy and human.

Vivino’s photo-recognition is not as precise as Delectable’s, but it does offer additional features such as the opportunity to catalog your cellar or create a “taste profile.” This latter aspect strikes me as risky, because I don’t want to be pigeonholed. If you’re pretty sure you like “hearty reds” and want to find such wines you may not know about, go for it. But I’m worried that over time you’re going to convince yourself that you like only hearty reds. The obvious guideline is to trust humans, not categories.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is a simple, rather unambitious app that does not attempt any human-to-human interaction at all. It’s strictly factual, but allows you to play with and learn about your own relationship wine as part of a much larger natural world. The app is called When Wine, a guide to drinking according to the biodynamic calendar. In biodynamic gardening and farming, days are divided into categories of leaf, root, flower, fruit. The latter two are good for tasting; the former two are not. If you think that’s hooey, go ahead and try the app. Find a wine you know you like, and drink it on different “days.” You may find that your reaction to this wine changes rather dramatically according to the biodynamic designation.

Another great wine app is the great everything app, Evernote. It’s the best way I know to capture and catalog photos you snap of wines you enjoy, entering them into one or more “notebooks” you create and adding text notes if you wish. Evernote doesn’t do anything, then, to process that information. It’s just the ideal format for walking into a store that sells wine, finding a human being who is eager to help and presenting the history you’ve documented of your actual wine experiences. The human being can take it from there.

Joe Appel works at Rosemont Market. He can be reached at:

[email protected]

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Surface Pro 3 is the thinnest and lightest in our Pro family with a 12″ laptop-sized screen for ultimate productivity. The 4th generation Intel Core Processor provides insanely fast performance. With the multi-position Kickstand, optional click-in keyboard,2 and multiple ports, Pro 3 gives you unmatched versatility as a tablet or laptop.

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Since Surface Pro 3 runs Windows 8.1 Pro, you can install your favorite desktop software, including the full Microsoft Office Suite,3 and open apps side-by-side. Get the best of Microsoft like Skype, OneDrive, Xbox Music and more, on one device.

Best writing and drawing experience

With a flexible Kickstand, Palm Block technology, and Surface Pen, Surface Pro 3 was designed to give you the most natural writing experience on a tablet. Click Pen once for OneNote, even if your screen is locked, to capture your thoughts instantly.

Big screen entertainment, anywhere

Stay entertained with the bigger, beautiful 12″ Full HD screen, Kickstand, and Dolby-enhanced speakers. Easily expand your music or movie library and share between devices with the microSD card and USB port. With up to 9 hours of web browsing,4 our battery keeps going as long as it needs to.

Make the most of Surface

Click in to the Surface Pro Docking Station for an instant desktop workstation. Add the efficiency of a click-in keyboard and the precision of a wireless mouse. Share content to the big screen with video adapters. Screen protectors and sleeves help keep your Surface safe.5

Amazing Apps

Surface Pro 3 comes with apps that help you socialize, stay in touch, share and view documents, organize photos, listen to music, and watch movies. You can find even more apps in the Windows Store.


Surface Pro Type Cover

Surface Pro Docking Station

Microsoft Office

Surface 2 Surface Pro 3
Operating system Windows RT 8.1 Windows 8.1 Pro
Software Runs touch-optimized Windows Store apps Runs desktop software like browsers, iTunes and Adobe Photoshop (sold separately)
Applications Access to Windows Store Access to Windows Store
Office Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 RT versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, & OneNote apps are included.7 Runs the full Microsoft Office suite (sold separately)
Screen 10” display
1920×1080 resolution
12” display
2160×1440 resolution
Processor NVIDIA Tegra 4 4th generation Intel processor for ultimate performance
Storage options1 32GB or 64GB with 2GB RAM 64GB or 128GB with 4GB RAM
256GB or 512GB with 8GB RAM
Battery life Up to 10 hours of video playback Up to 9 hours of web browsing4
Kickstand 2-position Multi-position
Surface pen included   Palm block technology and 256 levels of pressure sensitivity
Ports Full-size USB 3.0
microSD card reader
Headset jack
Cover port
Full-size USB 3.0
microSD card reader
Headset jack
Cover port

With docking station:5
Power supply input
3 USB 3.0 ports
2 USB 2.0 ports
GB Ethernet port
3.5mm audio input/output
Mini DisplayPort video output

HD video HD Video out port Mini DisplayPort In the box Surface 2
24W Power Supply
Quick Start Guide
Safety and warranty documents Surface Pro 3
Surface Pen
36W Power Supply
Quick Start Guide
Safety and warranty documents Compatible accessories Type Cover 2 or Touch Cover 2
Arc Touch Mouse
HD Digital AV Adapter
VGA Adapter
Wedge Mouse Type Cover 3
Arc Touch Mouse
MiniDisplay Port to HD adapter
MiniDisplay Port to VGA adapter
Surface Pro Docking Station
Ethernet Adapter
Wedge Mouse
Specification Details
Technical Specifications
Software Windows 8.1 Pro
Exterior Dimensions: 201.3 mm x 292 mm x 9.1 mm (7.93 in x 11.5 in x .36 in)
Weight: 1.76 lbs (800g)6
Casing: Magnesium
Color: Silver
Physical buttons: Volume, Power
Storage1 64GB
Display Screen: 12″ ClearType Full HD Plus display
Resolution: 2160 x 1440
Aspect Ratio: 3:2
Touch: Multi-touch
CPU & Wireless 4th generation Intel Core i3/i5/i7 Processor
System memory: 4GB or 8GB memory options
TPM Chip for enterprise security
Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11ac/802.11 a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy technology
Battery Life Up to 9 hours web browsing4
Cameras, Video & Audio Two 5MP HD cameras, front and rear-facing, with 1080p HD video recording
Dual microphones
Stereo speakers with Dolby sound
Ports Full-size USB 3.0
microSD card reader
Headset jack
Mini DisplayPort
Cover port
Sensors Ambient light sensor
Warranty 1-year limited hardware warranty
Surface Pen Dimensions: 135 mm (length), 9.5 mm (diameter)
Weight: 20 grams
In the box Surface Pro 3
Surface Pen
36W Power Supply
Quick Start Guide
Safety and warranty documents
  1. System software uses significant storage space. Available storage is subject to change based on system software updates and apps usage. 1 GB = 1 billion bytes. See for more details.
  2. Keyboard sold separately.
  3. Office sold separately.
  4. Testing consisted of full battery discharge while Internet browsing over Wi-Fi. Internet browsing was tested browsing 25 popular webpages. All settings were default except: Wi-Fi was associated with a network, auto-brightness disabled, and Bluetooth radio was turned off. Battery life varies with settings, usage, and other factors.
  5. All accessories are sold separately.
  6. Surface Pro 3 is 11.9mm and 2.4lbs with Type Cover attached.
  7. Some functionality may be limited. See

Product Features

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  • 12-Inch HD (2160 x 1440) Touchscreen Display
  • 8 GB RAM; 512 GB Storage Capacity
  • Windows 8.1 Pro
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Various Other Touchscreen Tablets Can Be Found Here…

Rumoured 12-Inch iPad Plus Confirmed With Leaked Large iPad Case

With every Apple product comes a steady stream of leaks, but the latest one is sure to turn your head.

French website (via vr-zone) has announced that they’ve gotten their hands on a prototype of a new iPad case for what’s been described by the tech world as the iPad Plus. This new model is the latest rumoured release by Apple, and is said to be a much larger version of the iPad we all know and love. This sets it in direct rivalry with mega-tablets like the Surface Pro.

The leaked images include a comparison with the iPad Air 2 model, and shows the difference in size of the iPad Plus. It is rumoured to have a 12-inch display, and this leak seems to have confirmed its existence.

The tech world whispers have been calling it the iPad Plus or the iPad Pro, though most have been leaning towards the “Plus” moniker. Other rumours also hint at an optional stylus being offered with the tablet, making the possibilities of its usage much broader than any iPad has ever had. If Apple’s preference for creatives is anything to go on, it may be marketed as the latest must-have tool for anyone in the creative industry, from design to note-taking.

Earlier leaks have also hinted at four stereo speakers being included, while others say there may only be two. It is also expected to include the Apple A8X chipset with 2GB RAM, 16/64/128GB storage options, Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0, and 4G LTE connectivity.

The Unicorn Of Apple Fan’s Dreams

The iPad Plus is something that people have been hoping for since before the Apple Watch was announced. This time, the evidence seems more concrete, especially with the discovery of iPad Plus cases already being made in China.

While it is still mostly speculation, tech gurus have placed the possible announcement date as sometime during Q2 of 2015, making it the second big Apple product announcement of the year. The first, of course, is still reserved for the Apple Watch and Retina Screen Macbook Air.

A lot more information is needed to truly confirm specs and names, but it seems highly probable that we’ll be seeing this baby very soon. And if the leaked photos are anything to go on, it will look pretty awesome.

As Tim Cook repeatedly said at the iPhone 6 release – bigger and better, right?

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Fast changing … tablet computers now come in more than one size, and more than one form …

Our thoughts on Sony’s latest super light and ultra thin Xperia tablet offering.

Tablet computers now come in more than one size, and more than one form.

Fast changing … tablet computers now come in more than one size, and more than one form. Source: Supplied

TABLET computers have come a long way in a short time. No longer just a panel, the newest generation can float on water, or flip over to become a laptop.

Sony Xperia Tablet Compact

Sony / 4.5/5 / $499 /

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact tablet computer.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact tablet computer. Source: Supplied

This tablet is so thin and light, it doesn’t feel quite real. The thinnest Sony tablet yet has a profile of 6.4mm, and weighs 270g, making it feel more like a smartphone than a slate. Despite its size, it packs in cutting-edge features, including a 2.5GHz quad-core chip, 3GB RAM, an 8.1-megapixel rear camera, a battery with 13 hours of life, and a water-resistant exterior in case you want to take it poolside. Users will likely want to add a memory card to boost its 16GB memory, and its screen is not as sharp as some, but this tablet is more portable and useful than most.

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro

Lenovo / 4/5 $2099 /

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro.

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro. Source: Supplied

This machine is as versatile as it is sexy — and at just 12.88mm thick it is very sexy. Like previous Yoga models, it has a hinge that lets you fold its lid over so the 299 pixels-per-inch, 20-point multitouch screen becomes a 13.3-inch tablet with hidden keyboard. It’s powered by the Intel Core M chip and despite being slim, it has a full range of ports including a 4-in-1 memory card reader. Where it falls short is battery life, which is not much more than half of what you can expect of similar units on the market.

HP Pavilion x2

HP / 4/5 / $499 /

HP Pavilion x2 tablet computer.

HP Pavilion x2 tablet computer. Source: Supplied

This 10.1-inch, 610g tablet slots into a detachable cover that is a thin but functional keyboard, making it a highly productive package. With elements of both a Microsoft Surface and an Apple iPad, the HP Pavilion x2 runs Windows 8 and has both USB 3.0 and HDMI ports. It doesn’t have the power of the Surface or the simplicity of the iPad and the keyboard lacks a reassuringly solid feel, but this unit it offers another interesting solution in the hybrid zone where tablets and laptops come together.

ASUS Transformer Book Flip

ASUS / 3/5 / $1247 /

ASUS Transformer Book Flip.

ASUS Transformer Book Flip. Source: Supplied

Versatility is a good thing but this hybrid 15-inch laptop with screen that flips into tablet mode might make you question how often you’ll use a 2kg tablet. As a tablet, it’s big and bulky. As a laptop, it’s a sturdy unit with a well-spaced keyboard, powered by an Intel Core i7 chip and with 8GB RAM. An aesthetic complaint is that while the brushed-metal black lid is attractive it also shows all fingerprint marks. The unit’s ports include one USB 3.0, two USB 2.0 and a HDMI. Where the machine disappoints is in screen resolution and brightness.

LG G Pad 10.1

LG / 3.5/5 / $399 /

LG G Pad 10.1 tablet computer.

LG G Pad 10.1 tablet computer. Source: Supplied

In a sea of Android tablets, LG’s G Pad seeks to stand out with a distinctive red or black rear panel that feels like rubber while looking like brushed metal. Running Android KitKat with a 1.2GHz quad-core processor, it has 16GB on-board storage plus a Micro SD port. Its build quality sits above budget offerings, with a decent 8000mAh battery, NFC and a usable 5-megapixel rear camera, but it falls down on its display, with a 150 pixels-per-inch touchscreen that can’t match high-end tablets from the likes of Apple and Samsung.