22 September 2010

a junkyard called the future: iPad wine lists

Image swiped from regmedia.co.uk. 

Reading the NYTimes last night, I was bemused to discover that iPad's are being employed in certain restaurants as substitute wine lists.

Actually, "bemused" is sort of a light-hearted way of saying "filled with a profound ambivalence." (If you think I walk around the city all day in a permanent state of bemusement, then you know me very well.)

Instinctively I want to heap this idea in with cryogenic wine preservation systems, in a junkyard reserved for unbroken things that got fixed. But...

... I must admit that I too have dreamed of / lobbied for greater iPad involvement in my own workplace, in the fashion industry, when during showroom collections we use up several Amazonian hectares of B4 paper for order books that, despite or because of constant reprinting, are invariably teeming with crucial errors. If we could update everyone's iPad order book with a few keystrokes, thereby eliminating most commercial misunderstandings, I bet the fashion industry would become, almost overnight, a friendlier, less psychotically stressed-out place.

Bone's Restaurant in Atlanta: home of the iPad wine list.
Image swiped from tripadvisor.com. 

For a sommelier, I do see the appeal of iPad wine lists. No more reprinting 27 pages because a vintage change or an '86 necessitated the reformatting of the latter half the list. No more reprinting due to understandable spelling errors or misplaced French or Italian articles. Less lecturing to the guest, who for all you know might, like me, be a totally non-auditory learner who shuts off when people begin speaking at him.

That said, for a sommelier, the appeal here amounts to: less necessity to just, like, do your job well.

More importantly, if you just let the guest surf around on his or her iPad - to say nothing of what it will do to the atmosphere among the guest's tablemates* - you are releasing this guest from the hermetic, well-trimmed world of One Somm's Wine List into the Universe of Contradictory, Often Uninformed Opinions. It's a jungle out there, on the inter-web. And frankly, when I worked as a sommelier, certainly nothing could have pissed me off more than being contradicted by the idiot repetition of some knuckle-headed syrup-sucking Robert M. Parker factoid or wine-score the guest just read on the iPad I handed him (or her).

Even supposing that the iPad wine list software displayed only original text on each wine, you're still essentially avalanching the guest with information, inviting hours of dithering, and generally gumming up the whole wine service process.

Okay, ambivalence gone. If I enter a restaurant and someone hands me an iPad in lieu of a wine list I'm going to invalidate the warranty on the thing.

Image swiped from note-tech.com.

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