App Review: NatDecants

Category: Lifestyle
Price: FREE
TiP Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Release Date: 2/5/2010
Version: 1.1
Languages: English
Seller: Natalie MacLean
Rated: Must be 17 years old or older to download this app
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone and iPod Touch (2nd generation). Requires iPhone OS 3.1.2 or later.
Link to app (clicking launches iTunes)

App Store Description: Ranked the #1 wine app on iTunes, this free app features 380,000 food & drink pairings, plus thousands of wine reviews, recipes, articles, glossary terms, winery directory and cellar journal from the World’s Best Drink Writer Natalie MacLean

Summary: I like food. I also like wine. I especially like it when my food and wine go together (known in the wine community as “pairing”). Wouldn’t it be great to have your own personal sommelier in your pocket for those occasions? NatDecants offers up some great pairing suggestions, but could use more polish on features to really shine on an Apple mobile device.

NatDecants iPhone App Home Screen

Review: The world of wine is, in a word, huge. It can take years of experience and education to have the slightest idea of what you’re talking about. If you’re a true oenophile, your brain will be stuffed full of data on various vintages and terms like “legs,” “bouquet,” and “how to refinance my mortgage to afford the 1998 Petrus Pomerol.”

For the rest of us, we just want to know what specific wine would make our delicious meal all the more tasty. And to take it beyond the simple “red with beef, white with chicken” matchups, you’re going to need help. Fine restaurants employ a dedicated staff member known as a “sommelier” to make these recommendations. Barring that, you’re going to want to use NatDecants.

Writer Natalie MacLean is known the world over as a fount of wine knowledge. With her iPhone app, NatDecants, you get all of this expertise in your pocket, ready to fire up at a moment’s notice when your dining companions are eagerly awaiting your wine suggestions.

NatDecants iPhone App food pairing screen

Fundamentally, NatDecants is just a front-end for the website. While you can step through various pairings, once you’ve gotten to a specific wine, the app simply displays the content that is on the website. This is a bonus in some ways, as you know it is always up-to-date with Natalie’s latest musings on a specific vintage. Provided you paid for the premium content, that is.

The reviews of the various wines are broken up between “free” reviews and “premium” reviews. Access to the premium content requires an additional subscription on the website, for $2.10/month. The free reviews are just as comprehensive in content as the premium content, however, the free reviews are all one year old or older, whereas the premium reviews include the most recent writeups from Natalie.

I did find that some of the cooler features in this app suffer due to their website integration. The app boasts the ability to add favorite wines to your “Cellar,” which is basically a set of favorites. Pretty cool feature, right? I find a wine I like, I want to remember it later when I’m at the store stocking up for a dinner party. But it turns out your “Cellar” is a feature of – and you have to register on the site to activate it.

NatDecants iPhone App Registration Screen

The registration screen wasn’t very easy to use in mobile Safari. The “next” buttons in the form fields were in a strange order, so it jumped around between entering the password and the entire site’s search feature. After registering, it wasn’t clear when the registration was complete, or what I should do next. The “Cellar” page stayed on the “success” registration page, and until I went back into “Pairings,” and then into “Cellar”, I saw no change. This is due to the fact that the “Cellar” button is simply a window into the “Cellar” feature of the website. I would prefer to have this stored in a local database on my iPhone – perhaps while I’m at the grocery store, I might not have a 3G signal. Or worse, with an iPod Touch, the app is fundamentally useless unless the store/restaurant has free wifi. It would be great to be able to search for a pairing in advance and then have the wines stored in a local “Cellar” on your device for quick, non-network-dependent reference when out and about.

I also found difficulty adding wines to my “Cellar” in the first place. I was able to add them, but they never seemed to show up. This could be a temporary issue with the website, or perhaps user error on my side, but the fact remains that this potentially useful feature never actually functioned for me during my testing.

NatDecants iPhone App Add To Cellar Screen

Overall, I did find this app to be useful. There’s no match for it as far as sheer amount of pairing data – pretty much any dish you can imagine is in the database, along with plenty of great recommendations for wines and other beverages. NatDecants also includes some cool social media features, allowing you to share your discoveries via Twitter or Facebook (although there is no integration with iPhone Twitter apps, but it’s better than nothing). In summary, I think this app has a LOT of promise, but needs more polish to really take advantage of the capabilities of the Apple mobile device lineup.

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