AMITIAE - Monday 26 October 2015
Searching for Information on Wines: winesearcher - an iOS App
By Graham K. Rogers
I claim no expertise about wine, but certainly enjoy a glass in the evenings. I like to avoid wines that are acid and - with the higher temperatures here - prefer whites over often-heavier reds. But what to buy; and, just as important, where to buy?
I often see suggestions online, but these may be for the UK or Australia: how might it be possible to find the same or an equivalent wine here? An app I came across recently (one of a number that appear in the Food & Drink section of the iTunes App Store in Thailand) may be of some assistance. winesearcher (the app uses a lower-case "w") has an easy to use interface that allows those interested in tracking down the sorts of wine that is best for them. Although the app was first released in March 2013, a recent update (version 3.2) was made available in mid-September this year.
The app opens with 3-part panel. At the centre is a search for Type. Above are two smaller panels for "My ratings" with a star; and "Recognize Label" displaying a camera icon. Below search is a link to purchase the Pro version; and a panel to locate stores. I started with this last item.
LocationThe app makes use of the user's location and the Locate Stores panel revealed a list of some 16 outlets. Most are in the greater Bangkok area, but one was listed for Hua Hin. One of the searches (see below) also brought up a merchant in Phuket. Some of those shown, listed Best Buys when accessed. The default display was for Any, but users may also select Red or White: the list reloads.
Each of the entries had four icons displayed at the top of the panel: Telephone number; email, which opened the Mail app; Information which linked to any URL and displayed other useful comments in the panel; and Location which revealed an Apple Maps panel (Standard, Satellite or Hybrid) with a pin marking the site of the outlet. At the top of the map display were two buttons, marked Call and Email.
Tapping on any wine listed on the panel for an outlet, revealed more details about the specific bottle, including a rating and link to Wine Enthusiast. Further down the panel examples of other wines from the same producer was shown: each linked to a sub-panel with much more information including price and availability world-wide.
SearchWhen I tried the main panel, Search, initially a blank screen was shown with a small search window at the top. Entering a search term (I started with Beaune) gave me a list of 25 reds and whites. Selecting one white as an example, showed me a price and a location where this was available in Thailand. The same was so for others (reds and whites) I looked at, with some showing more than one choice.
I repeated the search with Chablis. A list (all white of course) offered 22 possibles. All the bottle icons were green, except for a single grey (California) wine that was found to be available in Tesco here for a quite low price.
I switched the search criteria to Chile, then Australia which brought a list of names I was familiar with like Penfolds and Jacobs Creek. I also tried another familiar name - McLaren - which produced a dozen nice examples.
Recognize LabelAn interesting feature of the app is the use of the camera to help users identify wines from the label. In any well-stocked wine shop there is often a confusing array of available wines and sometimes a too-helpful assistant (particularly here). I often make a choice on what I am familiar with. I may choose the same wine over and over (nothing wrong with stability), but once in a while may want to look further.
I had that chance this weekend when in a supermarket here noticed a bottle with two terms I knew; Black Stump (that comes up in Search too - although examples found are not in this country) and McLaren Vale.
A panel guides the user with label alignment and once the picture is taken, the user is offered the option of Use Photo or Retake With the ability to examine a label. The image selected is uploaded and a search produces a list of possibles. At the end of the list is "It's none of these."
I used the Black Stump and the photo was quickly identified, although there were no sources for Thailand shown. Where I had bought the bottle had not been shown in any of the sections. Prices in the information panel were also lower than here, partly I suspect because of high taxes on wines here. Nonetheless, this feature does what it is designed to do and will be of considerable value in at least being able to find out about wines on the shelves in front of me.
Other OptionsA user ratings section allows use of Date, Rating and Name, with a selection of filters to assist future searches. The rating itself occurs when the wine details are displayed, for example in the Search panels. With only a brief acquaintance, I was not able to examine this fully.
A Pro option update needs the user to enter account details after a $43 fee is paid. The extra information available to Pro users is considerable with unlimited searches (the free version allows up to 50 results) and the ability to fine-tune searches as well as other features. The fee covers users for the desktop and mobile versions as well.
Settings allow the user to select the currency (by default mine picked up on the settings for the iPhone) as well as countries for merchants. A slider allows the range for searches (0 - 200 miles) while the types of merchants - I selected All - may also be refined.
CommentsWines are quite widely available in Thailand these days, but even before the ban on advertising alcohol, there was little in the way of publicity about such beverages. An occasional comment in a newspaper or recommendations from those who had tried specific wines, might be all most would have to go on. There is a lot of wine that is best left untouched, but there is perhaps even more that is worth trying.
The winesearcher app is a useful way to start for those with little experience or for those who may want to extend their knowledge. As a free app, this is a useful addition to the options available which often start with assistants who may not be fully cognizant of the wines they are employed to sell.
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.
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