There’s a problem with wine. It’s just too confusing for normal people to deal with. There are tens of thousands of different products, ranging widely in price and quality, and pretty much all of them packaged the same way. So how do you make a choice? I suppose you could invest lots of time and money in learning about it, but for most this isn’t an option.
This is the problem that Shakira Chanrai’s Grapeful wine app sets out to solve. Only 24, Chanrai left University (politics at LSE) and worked for two years in banking (Mutual Funds Marketing at Fidelity) before leaving to devote all her time to app development. She grew up in a home where wine was always present – her father is a keen collector – but it wasn’t really until university that she got into wine.
This app isn’t for experts; rather it is designed for normal people who want to find out more about wine and make better choices. ‘It’s a way to avoid awkward silences on dates,’ she says. ‘I think wine is a very social product, and you can pull out the app and discuss information that can help form the foundation of decisions.’
The app is free, and available on both android and apple, and it’s just seen an update for Christmas. Food and wine matching is a strong theme, and the app is very educational. There’s also the option to buy examples of the different wine types you are being steered towards through various affiliate links. Chanrai is currently working with restaurants to help people choose wines in places that wouldn’t have a sommelier, which I think is a superb idea.
I’ve played with the app a bit and I think it’s really good. There’s room for more specificity, in terms of the exact food matches and the specific wines that are recommended. I’d like to see this as a sort of virtual sommelier: it would be great if you could type the name of a dish in and then get intelligent automated pairings, or even if you could scan a recipe and then get matches that way. Or what about scanning the label and then being given a recipe that would go well with the wine?
It’s a really good app, and it will be fun to watch it evolve. Rather than expanding it in all directions, though, I think Grapeful should focus on its key strength and become even better at that, as a tool to use in the restaurant and in the kitchen.