Whether you need wine apps depends on what you want. For comparing prices, Wine-Searcher (especially Wine-Searcher Pro) remains my favourite. Beyond facilitating comparison shopping locally, its worldwide delivery filter allows you to source great overseas deals. For US$65 a year, you need never overpay for wine again. NB: listings are only as accurate as their respective websites; Wine-Searcher doesn’t verify all listings.
Most reviewers like the Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and Vinous have apps, but they aren’t big improvements on the websites. Functions like label scanning and community reviews are more obvious candidates for app-ification. Vivino’s worldwide network of more than 35 million amateur reviewers is formidable, but I’d always wondered whether a localised, socially focused app had traction in Asia. China, as always, has plentiful homegrown options like 9KaCha, Dr Wine and Hesha (a wine/dating app, a combo that clearly needed to happen). However, all seem to have veered towards e-commerce with a mere sprinkle of social. WeChat Wine is currently a cross-border e-commerce solution, but I’m watching this space. Redsip, an app vying to be China’s “Facebook of wine,” has yet to be launched fully but could be interesting.
Beyond apps, what about online wine influencers? Does Asia have equivalents of the charming Wine Folly blog or the pugilistic YouTuber Gary Vaynerchuk (aka Gary Vee)? I asked wine industry friends who they felt were contenders.
The “real players”—those with vast audiences beyond the wine cognoscenti—are Chinese social media stars turning attention into sales through proprietary e-commerce platforms, often focused on the mass market. Lady Penguin, aka Karla Wang, a Brown and Cordon Bleu graduate (and Generation T Lister), has riled up China’s wine distributors by providing radical pricing transparency to her two-million-plus Douyin followers and 8,000 wine club members.
The even more populist figure Beef Brother on Douyin bundles very inexpensive wine (e.g. 99 yuan for six bottles) with beef. Others who have carved out profitable niches are Miss Yuan on Taobao, whose focus is sweet wine, and Yang Jiang of V&C Wine (JD.com’s top wine store), though it’s heavily stocked with the usual suspects (Penfolds, Yellow Tail, Brown Brothers) that arguably sell themselves.