Christopher S. Miller

THE INTERNET WAS supposed to revolutionize the way we live. It has had several setbacks, but has indeed become a great tool for many people. But what is the Internet’s impact on wine? I myself thought the Internet could have had a major impact on how business was done in the wine industry as far back as the late 1990s, and began developing what I thought would be the “killer app” for wine on the Internet. Alas, I was a bit early and way under-capitalized, but a lot has changed in both the Internet arena and the wine industry, and today wine and the Internet are becoming good bedfellows.

Wine is a vast subject (damn near infinite), with scoodles of great, useless and even incorrect information. For the purpose of getting information about a wine, region or style, the Internet can be very useful, though a bit frustrating (and incorrect: just because it’s published doesn’t make it right or up to date). Due to the changes in laws for purchasing wine from other states, more wine stores and wineries are developing websites for selling their products over the Internet. Most of these sites are entirely geared toward promoting and selling, and not toward giving quality information (I want to know more about a wine than a critic’s score and the price). As a wine educator, I use the Internet daily to research wine and keep current with wine laws, regions and trends, and to help me develop content for wine websites I consult for.

With any subject as vast as wine, it is nearly impossible to find all the pertinent information in one place.

Writers have tried with moderate success for centuries and printed wine information is out of date almost immediately. My original Internet business was designed to make all the wine information and knowledge available on one website along with all the food and recipe information (I used to be a chef). The business model was based on subscriptions and advertising rather than direct sales (obviously a model that Wall Street couldn’t appreciate at the time). So today I focus on education and providing content to wine websites. The two I currently work with are (spanking new) and (one of the originals). Both are very good sites with different approaches. The Sherry-Lehmann site has been called the best of the web by both Forbes Magazine and Market Watch.

The web can also be used to get hard to find wines, a wine from a winery that doesn’t have a distributor in New York State, or sending a New York wine to a friend or relative in another state. Due to this use, many wineries have very good sites of their own. Many restaurants have websites and the most useful ones post their current wine list. This is a very useful function for those of us who take wining and dining seriously. Seeing the list on a restaurant’s site may help me decide on making a reservation. With a large list (The American Hotel, Tellers, The 21 Club, Veritas, etc.), precious social time can be saved making the selection ahead of time. Or like a friend of mine does, email a link of the restaurants list to me and I, his personal sommelier, will make the selection for him. There will need to be a fee structure for that. So with the right touch, the Internet is a great tool to enrich wine experiences. Just be careful which sites you trust; if the content is mine it will have © listed somewhere.