Published 6 November 2011
It’s a cold Winter’s night in 1997, and a 23-year old boy is walking to his first date with the future Mrs Bigpinots. He’s only on a small salary from his first job, but he’s decided to splash out and book at table at l’Escargot in London’s Soho district. He’s wearing a suit, he’s polished his shoes, but it’s pretty clear that he’s making an effort and this isn’t a normal night out for him. He gets to the restaurant, his cheap trench coat is taken from him, and he sits down. His date soon arrives and it’s going pretty well. Then it all starts to go wrong. He asks for the wine list. To his horror, the list arrives and is the size of a coffee table book. He’s a confident chap who’s been drinking wine for a few years, but it’s clear that this situation has “potential disaster” written all over it. Luckily there is a very experienced sommelier; unfortunately the little bastard does nothing to help. Shit. Help. Panic…
It’s enough to make anyone wake up in a cold sweat. This kind of nightmare is what scares most people about wine. Daunting wine lists in restaurants are the number one reason people think of wine as elitist and unapproachable.
So, full marks to WineDemon which has launched “the Trip Advisor for wine”. As Greg Banbury, co-founder of WineDemon says, “WineDemon rescues you from potentially embarrassing social situations”. In short, this website and iPhone app (Android is coming shortly), allows people to share wine and restaurant recommendations with their friends or the general public.
It’s not yet perfect, but it’s only been live a few weeks and the WineDemon team is constantly pushing out updates to improve the site and app. There are now 3,000 users and over 30,000 ratings, but they still need more to make the recommendations cover the majority of wines in the majority of restaurants. So, WineDemon, which is backed by Naked Wines’ founder Rowan Gormley, is asking for your help and is prepared to, in effect, give you free Naked wine as an incentive: £1 worth of wine for every review; £3 for every new wine or new restaurant that you enter. There is a limit of £50 free wine per person.
Personally, I have loved the idea from the moment I heard about it. In fact, to lay my cards on the table, I was given the privilege of drafting the first blueprint of the database structure (how much they used of it, I don’t know). So, yes, I want to see it work because of that, but I also want to see it succeed because I think it has the potential to save a young lad on a first date. It could liberate wine from the bonds of snobbishness by giving newcomers a helping hand. It could help the average Joe during the weekly supermarket shop – it’s not just restaurants that it covers, it’s shops too.