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07.09.2008

Introducing the World's Best (FREE!) Wine Cellar Management Software


This constitutes the first and possibly the only time you will ever find me endorsing, recommending, and generally plugging a commercial product (that isn't a bottle of wine or sake) here on Vinography.

There are two clear reasons for this.

The first is that the product I am endorsing is free. The second is because I designed it.

Those of you who know a little bit about me may be aware that by day I run an interactive design and strategy consulting firm called HYDRANT, which, among other things designs some of the best e-commerce and web applications in the world. Apart from employing my company's expertise a little in the design of this blog, I generally tend to keep these two careers of mine entirely separate. Or at least I did until about 18 months ago when we agreed to help a company called Vinfolio build the best wine cellar management software on the planet.

And today I am extremely proud to announce the launch of a public beta of that software, under the name VinCellar. This is a beta version of a web-based software product, which means that it still has some rough edges, only includes about 80% of the functionality that we have designed, and is subject to somewhat radical modification at any moment as we see fit, but in spite of that, it totally kicks ass.

VinCellar is designed to help a specific type of wine lover: anyone who has a wine collection that numbers at least one more bottle than they are capable of remembering off the top of their head. The more wine you own, the more useful you will likely find this software application, but even those with a very modest number of bottles may discover that this software will help them manage, maintain, and enjoy the wine they own.

Until today, there has really only been one truly sophisticated wine cellar management solution out there. While there are a host of desktop and web based software systems on the market, ranging in price from free to several thousands of dollars, I've seen almost all of them, and the only one that actually has most of the functionality needed to help wine lovers manage their cellars is a free web-based application called CellarTracker.

The only problem is that in addition to sophisticated functionality, CellarTracker offers its users an incredibly horrible, teeth-grindingly painful, ugly, and all around completely unusable user interface. Of course, that doesn't mean that thousands of people haven't gritted their teeth and learned to use it despite these massive usability flaws.

But the best tools should not only NOT be painful to use, they should be pleasurable. Just ask an iPhone owner if you need a further explanation of this principle.

And just as Apple's graphical user interface showed the world that there was an alternative to DOS based computing in 1984, it is my hope that many wine lovers will recognize the degree to which VinCellar represents a new paradigm in interacting with your wine collection. In short, wine cellar management just got a hell of a lot more fun.

The main purpose of this application is, of course, helping you do stuff with (or to) your wine collection -- from figuring out what you've got, where it is, how much it's worth, what you've bought, and what you want to drink, to what you probably should drink, what you should sell, and what you might not know about your wine consuming habits because you've never looked at the trends before.

In addition to tools to easily add, remove, reposition, edit, sell, analyze, and generally keep track of individual bottles or whole collections, the application also allows you to rate wines, add your own tasting notes, and see the scores and notes that others (including major wine critics) have made on any wine. These notes are pretty much the most useful part of CellarTracker, and they will likely become a very important source of value in VinCellar over time as well.

Finally, while it might be just enough to change the game by offering 98% of the same functionality as your major competitor with a much more usable interface, VinCellar today has dozens of useful (and entertaining) features that don't exist in any cellar management application, such as the ability to visually browse your wine cellar by label image, the ability to perform actions on multiple wines at once, and the tools to do sophisticated graphical analysis on all or a portion of your collection. And that's just for starters. Some of the features we've designed are so cool that we're not finished implementing them yet, so you'll just have to hang in there.

If you've read this far, thanks for indulging my excitement, and I hope you'll take the time to go check out VinCellar. Set up an account and add or import some wines to check out how the thing works.

It's not perfect, but it's pretty damn good. A few more features, a few bug fixes, and a bunch more tasting notes will take it from pretty good to awesome.

Let me know what you think: www.vincellar.com

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.