Prescience, the Internet and VinCellar
I’m only very occasionally demonstrate prescience. And even in those few cases it’s probably just an example of applying commonsense. But "prescience" is a word I like a lot so I use when I can even if I’m only skirting the edge of its meaning. That said, back in 1998 I was able to tell anyone who wandered past me that when it comes to the Internet and wine, it will be the collectors and high end buyers who make greatest use of the "world wide web’s" ultimate capabilities, not the average drinker or even the casual enthusiast.
I came to this…prescient…conclusion upon beginning a long run working with Winebid.com, the on-line auction house. Even after our very first auction of only a single, but complete, vertical of Opus One, it was clear that within the world of wine it would be the hard core wine lover/collector/enthusiast that would find greatest advantage in the Internet’s power of searching, data management, transactional and presentation capabilities.
That said, in order to prove one’s…prescience…one must be able to point to something that confirms the prediction:
If you keep a cellar of wine, if you are interested in tracking what’s in your cellar, want to always know what it’s worth now and what it was worth, want to know what’s been said by others about its contents, want visual representations of its content, need instant access to others that might want what’s in your cellar, or generally just want the most sophisticated and complete wine cellar management tool in world then you need to know about Vinfolio’s VinCellar.
Now here’s the thing. Use of VinCellar is free. In the same way that Inertia Beverage Group gives away for free to wineries its on-line compliance services, Vinfolio seems at first glance to be equally insane to give away a tool that is not just useful but, upon looking it over, must be the new must-use service for wine collectors and that growing breed of hard core wine enthusiasts I refer to as CellarDwellars. Vinfolio is primarily in the business of selling wine. Folks who use VinCellar are far more likely to buy wine from Vinfolio. But again, like Inertia, it seems like Vinfolio’s decision to give free access to its new VinCellar is much more than a business calculation. Rather, it’s the kind of service that is so good, so useful and so well rendered that Vinfolio’s Steve Bachmann and crew just couldn’t bare to keep it behind a monthly fee. They wanted to show it off. Now, I know hubris and pride isn’t the reason for making VinCellar free for anyone to use. But it would be an acceptable reason to me if it were the case.
VinCellar has been around a while. What’s really fascinating about its newest incarnation is the social networking element that has been built in. Community tasting notes from other VinCellar members now automatically appear next to the individual wines you track in your own VinCellar portfolio. Social networking and social and shared reviews is nothing new. But in this case it is an addition that really completes the services offered by using VinCellar. Serious collectors of wine have always gravitated toward one another and felt the sort of protective kinship in each others company that comes with knowing that their avocation is not just fringe in nature, but not always admired by the common man.
It would be difficult to list all the way in which VinCellar allows a use to slice and dice their collection, viewing it through different prisms be it value, regional source, ratings, location of wines, drinkability, etc. I
simply don’t want to make a list that long. Suffice to say, this flexibility built into VinCellar is one of the things that makes it particularly terrific.
So who is using this free and marvelous cellar management service? At this point it seems that folk with serious money to invest in wine are the primary users. VinCellar Community stats are listed on the Vinfolio homepage. As of this morning it noted that among the 35,000+ users of this system the average price of a bottle of wine tracked by Vinfolio is $108 and the average value of their cellars is $87,000. But the really cool thing about VinCellar is that the person that has a cellar with an average bottle price of $25 and a total collection valued at $100 can make equally good use of VinCellar.
In short, Vinfolio’s VinCellar might be is a perfect example of the reason I love the Internet. It provides an easily digestible example of how this communication and data management system has changed lives. All I have to do to see this is pull out my old leather bound book that once served as my own cellar management system where labels are peeling off, notes of wines are kept in long hand and where it takes a good 10 minutes to find my notes on the ’63 Warres I drank on my way back when.
(disclosure: Wark Communications has, in the past though not now, worked with Vinfolio and the owner sits on the board of directors of Specialty Wine Retailers Association, the organization for which I serve as Executive Director)