You just brought home a mixed case of wine from the store. Already, things are looking good. But what if you could scan each bottle as you unpack it and have the information appear in a database for managing your inventory? Or just for keeping all your tasting notes handy and organized?
To find out if it’s time for wine lovers to belly up to the barcode, I tested two newish products that claim to zap and upload: the IntelliScanner mini and the new version of Cor.kz, an iPhone app.
The verdict? Wine and this technology aren’t a perfect blend–yet. But these are, at the very least, a step in the right direction.
The IntelliScanner ($249, with software), which I received as a sample, comes in a wooden box big enough for a wine bottle yet is only the size of a matchbox. The wireless device reads bar codes easily and you’ll be scanning back labels of bottles like a checkout cashier before you know it. But the first problem I encountered is that not all wineries and/or importers place barcodes one the back label (adding barcodes to products can be an expensive process).
After scanning some bottles with barcodes, I synced the device with my computer to find that IntelliScanner collected data on most–but not all–of the wines. For the wines it did recognize, sometimes the data was woefully unhelpful: A Lapierre Morgon 2006 appeared only with a reference to its importer: “Unknown Kermit Lynch wine.” Not very helpful for deciding which bottle to uncork with dinner.
Sometimes the information was slightly wrong, such as including no vintage, the wrong vintage or not specifying a red or white even though the grape was listed on the label as syrah. Apparently, this inconsistency comes form vagueness in barcodes, also known as UPCs, which may work perfectly for DVDs but appear imperfectly suited to wine since there are so many variables.
Once I collected the data, I opened the workable but rudimentary IntelliScanner software. It doesn’t have connections to other sites, such as Wine Searcher, and there doesn’t appear to be a way to easily export the data–and there are no links to stores or auction houses for pricing information (although some prices were entered automatically).
There’s an app for that
Dialing up the Cor.kz app, I clicked on the barcode capture button and the camera automatically launched. (The Cor.kz app tied for first place when I reviewed of iPhone apps for the June issue of Wine & Spirits magazine.) I lined up the bar code (though it is sensitive to jiggling) and thanks to the autofocus on the 3GS, an image automatically is captured and sent to Cor.kz. When this works, it’s a dream: All the wine information enters thoroughly. Even better, if there’s a question about, say, vintages, the app suggests several likely options for easy clicking. Sadly, however, it was rare for it to actually deliver any results at all. I scanned an entire mixed case of bottles and got only two results–a 17% hit rate.
This frustration seems odd since Cor.kz connects to the CellarTracker database of over one million wine reviews. So I asked Eric LeVine, founder of CellarTracker.
“The way to input information right now is on CellarTracker.com,” he said. He may grant Cork.kz greater access to the database in the future but right now, because of the vagueness of barcodes, he seeks to have the database remain as free of duplicates as possible.
While neither of these technologies is a game changer for collectors or even casual wine drinkers, keep an eye on Google Goggles, introduced last week. Optical recognition just took a leap beyond barcodes with this technology. You just point your Android camera phone at an object, take a picture, and the program generates Web search results. The on-stage demonstration Google held at the launch even included a wine bottle that generated tasting notes.
With some further refinement, this offers the most promise for delivering price and tasting-note information to shoppers, as well as database-management tools for collectors.
Progress is coming in this area. But if you seek to escape the in-laws this holiday season by cataloging your wine cellar inventory, the best bet may just be to hunker down in the cellar, pop a bottle and fire up the laptop.
This article was republished at Forbes.com
UPDATE: Jim Goodman of Cor.kz added a comment below: “Corkz is working on this as we speak… Right now we are testing a way for users to associate a UPC code with a wine if no results are returned via the bar code scan. The feature should be out in a matter of days!”