By Nathaniel Bauer Wine and spirits columnist Published Jul 23, 2009 at 12:11 PM
This week, we are going to keep things short and sweet (author hears resounding cries of "hooray!")

A new format for this week's column is going to be a survey of sorts, a weighing-in of opinions and, hopefully, an all-out war.

The topic?

Wine applications / programs for mobile phones.

I will play the referee this week and monitor the comments hourly and chime in as frequently as necessary. The reason I chose to sit on the fence is that I am figuratively on the fence as to whether or not I want to side with "God, I so love them" or the "Dude, are you for real? Please!"

As an overall proponent of the Web 2.0 interactive experience, I appreciate the ability to gather as much quality information as quickly as possible. As a Marketing Director for Big Bang LLC here in Milwaukee, I am on Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Spoke and countless others making use of the ever-evolving interwebz experience. With iPhones taking over the world, there are apps for just about everything. Ways to find information about wine on the fly is no exception.

When it comes to existing mobile apps for wine, I would like to see a bit more than is currently available. Popular applications (HelloVino, Nirvino, MobileWineList, NatDecants) provide tasting notes and food pairings and try to let the average consumer make an educated decision.

However, they fail when it comes to being able to quickly assess your personal preferences and or provide you with a large selection. Some on the market have gone the way of "Internet Wine Critic" and allow you to input the selection, which then returns tasting notes and suggestions. These can be helpful to a point, but I have found that the several I have tried end up taking an inordinately long time to use.

Admittedly, the amount of time, effort and money required to maintain the caliber of the ideal wine mobile app is staggering, believe me, I've actually looked into doing it. Constant database updating, fast programming changes, let alone working through the limitless available wines are only a few of the problems facing a comprehensive mobile app.

The site that I have found to be the most comprehensive in terms of wine and food pairings on the fly is from wine blogger and author Natalie MacLean, who has contributed to Her site,, also offers a mobile application for both Blackberry and iPhone. If you need to find a style of wine match for your food, she offers some very nice choices with detailed explanations of each.

Hello (I actually follow them on Twitter -- for updates of new product) does a nice job of putting actual suggestions in front of you for particular producers and vintages. The issue with HelloVino is that some of their selections are things you will almost never find, or that are way past their prime. Example: I looked up pairing a red with pizza with "pepperoni / meat toppings" and the results came back with Ridge Pagani Ranch from 1993 and believe it or not, a 1980 vintage Grgich Hills Zin.

The major problems with these sites, and all of the others that I have tried, is that you have no way to balance the information you just looked up with what is staring you in the face on the retail shelf or in the monstrosity of a wine list open before you. It ends up taking up quite a bit of time.

That is why I always lean to personal interaction as the best way to find a great wine. The retailers and sommeliers have everything to lose by selecting something you won't like. So ask them, they live to help you find a great wine that you will love so you come back to buy more. The only caveat is that you need to be able to trust the person with whom you are speaking. Otherwise, everything goes out the window.

If you don't have an existing relationship, don't trust the fool in front of you, or are scared witless in a super fancy restaurant, does the mobile wine app save the day?

You tell me. Have you used them? Do you like them? Are they worth the money?

What kind of things would you like to see from a mobile wine app?

Do you wish they would shut down the webernet and make everyone talk about wine face to face again like the old days?

Weigh in and let us know your thoughts.

Nathaniel Bauer Wine and spirits columnist
Nathaniel Bauer has spent the last 10 years as a wine buyer for some of Milwaukee’s finest restaurants. Two standouts include a six-year tenure with Bartolotta’s that culminated at Bacchus as a manager and sommelier, followed by two years as the General Manager and certified sommelier at Dream Dance. Finally late in ‘08 he hung up his wine key to start a family. Even though he is now the Marketing Director for a local software company, Big Bang LLC, wine keeps calling his name. The steady chant that kept him in the restaurant business for more than a decade, even after his several attempts to ignore its call, keeps him up to date on current vintages and producers around the globe. Bauer still visits many Milwaukee establishments, both retail and restaurant, to stay a part of the fantastic wine community in this city. Now, after more than a decade in the wine and restaurant market, he is glad to have no direct affiliations and looks forward to offering an experienced and impartial opinion on how local wine purveyors can be even more successful.