Globally acclaimed French wine critics Bettane & Desseauve have just launched a Hong Kong version of their French wine app, aiming to connect local wine consumers with producers from around the world. Populated with more than 30 years of the duo’s tasting notes, the app purportedly features expert opinions on wines from around the world, including regionally dedicated wine experts opining on wines from France, Italy, South Africa and New Zealand. Participating local merchants currently include Watson’s Wine, Ponti Wine Cellars, Kerry Wines, Bidvino and many others.
As for the vision for the app, co-founder Thierry Desseauve shared via email, “Our objective is to deliver expert opinions to wine drinkers – or any person curious about wine. We have set up collaborations with wine experts from around the world, creating a collage of knowledge. Gambero Rosso shares his take on Italian wines, Ned Goodwin MW gives his expert opinion on Australian and New Zealand wines and Cathy van Zyl covers South Africa. Many more experts are coming soon to complete the picture.”
According to Desseauve, there is a growing user base of more than 25,000, which is expected to grow. “We give direct access to the wines via the app. You discover a wine, you like it, you can buy it. The app also has all the necessary features, allowing you to search a wine by its name, but also by its colour, country of origin, price, etc.”
When asked about upcoming features , Desseauve noted, “The Hong Kong version of the app is already an adaptation of the one we launched in France, which concentrates on French wines. The next step will be to launch in other markets. However, Hong Kong remains the ideal country for a first run – the wine market is mature, consumers are curious and knowledgeable about wines and tech savvy. We will also endeavour to make it possible for wine amateurs to actually meet the winemakers at a Grand Tasting event with a large range of growers present and, of course, masterclasses.”
In theory, the app does serve as a quick, handy reference if you’re looking to buy a favourite bottle or discover a new varietal, region or producer at a variety of different price points, from less than HK$100, to HK$250–400, to HK$450 and above. For example, a search for Australian wines in the $250–400 range brought up a nice variety of producers and varietals that included standard regions such as Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale as well as ones from Coonawarra, Clare Valley and Adelaide Hills.
In reality, however, the Hong Kong version of the app is in its infancy and appears to be in its very early stages of being populated with information. The experience differs greatly depending on the varietal, producer and even within different regions in the same country. A search for a Mas de Daumas Gassac from Languedoc resulted in a brief, one-sentence comment, while a search for Château Lafite-Rothschild had longer tasting notes in French (perhaps copied over from the version for France).
It’s also not clear to whom to attribute the tasting notes. Other searches either only had marketing descriptions or were left blank. Take, for example, a search for a Côte-Rôtie from Michel et Stéphane Ogier, which brought up a list of different vintages with Bettane & Desseauve’s expert ratings, but no tasting notes or distributors.
While some of the wines do include brief tasting notes and provide a direct link to a local distributor, the overall experience remains inconsistent at this stage. When a distributor is listed, some wines include links to a merchant and others don’t, which seems a bit clunky in this day and age. For example, a search for a Felton Road Pinot Noir listed Watson’s Wine without a link to their site, while a search for a Pio Cesare Barolo included a link to Jebsen Fine Wines.
Our testing of the newly launched Grand Tasting app showed that it demonstrates promise as a handy reference and purchasing tool for the emerging wine consumer looking to discover and try new varieties and producers. Though the app appears to be in its very early stages of development, we look forward to revisiting it in a few months’ time for a more consistent experience.
The Grand Tasting app is available on the App Store, Google Play, Facebook and Instagram.
Note that this review is based on the initial release of the app, which does not included updated features and functionalities that may have been made post-publication.