Join us as, with suitably sparkly wine in hand, we run through the best Wine Navigator reviews of 2011.

Great review

...a brain?

It was a vintage year for Wine Navigator. We added loads of new wines and food matches, a funky new design to the app and even a free version for all those that wanted a sip before tasting the whole thing.

We also introduced Wine Navigator Online — all that info from the app in website form (for free) and Wild & Rare — the place where Francis will be writing about his travels to unusual wine destinations. (“Wild” because it involves avoiding Hezbollah, “Rare” because no other bugger would do it just for a glass of wine).

We’ve also been blessed with some wonderful reviews (good and bad) so, for the sake of shameless self publicity, here are some of our favourites from the pile:

Jeremy Rix wrote this:

“Wine easy” *****

Very happy to have a quick and easy way to match wine to food, and suggestions for wines that I might like, based on what I know I do like. Keeps things nice and simple and cuts out all the wine BS.

There is a lot of BS in the wine world (a notable percentage probably coming from our Twitter account) but the worst of it comes from those darn ‘wine educators’. The whole point of Wine Navigator is to help us simple folk enjoy a glass of wine and some food with no pretension and certainly none of that pesky ‘educating’; we all had enough of school in our teens, we don’t need it again. That said, you clearly can’t please all the people all the time…

DEF246 spewed this:

“Am I missing something? *

I bought this wine app on the back of all the good reviews and feel completely conned. All it does is give you a generic description of types of wine and what goes with what type of food. There is nothing whatsoever about specific vintages or vineyards. So if you think all Australian Shiraz’s taste the same then you might find this app useful, otherwise save your money.

Terrible though it is that this user felt conned (and remember that you can get a refund, dear reader, through iTunes) we’re not entirely sure why DEF246 (either a droid from Star Wars or it’s not their real name) thought the app would do all that they ask. The screenshots wouldn’t suggest anything other than a simple interface and the description text, if they’re able to read, doesn’t mention vintages. Their review is probably our favourite though since this…

“All it does is give you a generic description of types of wine and what goes with what type of food.”

…is exactly what we think most people want from a wine app.

Tempting though it is to go through the hundreds of wines in the database, list all the vintages of each and decide what goes with what, we had to settle for something a little more generic in order to release the app this century.

We also had some useful feature requests…

Pablo Regueira uttered this:

“Not as expected, no search function” **

Don’t worry Pablo, it’s coming…

Thecliffes offered up this:

“I like it” ****

Simple and easy to use. Could be enhanced if they linked up to a review site to tell you if a specific wine was good or bad. […] IN my opinion this is the most useful wine app on iTunes.

A great suggestion and review – “the most useful wine app on iTunes”. Shucks, you’re making us blush. Reviews for specific wines? We’ll see what we can do…

The ones that please us the most are when we realise we’ve done a pretty good job at giving someone what they want.

Bleurgh penned this little gem:

“Nice” ****

Nice interface and a great comparator between different wines, similar wines, wines that go with certain meals and food types. Very useful for a complete ignoramous like me!

And that’s the app in a nutshell. It’s an app for those that wouldn’t normally think about wine matches (or even just a handy guide for those that do).

The last word I’ll leave to adamlynk who typed this svelte beauty of a review:

“Brilliant” *****

This app is superb. It really helps me find wines I would never have thought of before. I use it all the time. A real keeper.

And that’s exactly what we want to do. We’re all used to seeing Blossom Hill, Hardy’s etc. on the shelves of our supermarkets but there’s another 80% of the wine section – you know, the bit not on special offer – filled with exciting new wines you owe it to yourself to try. Granted, you’ll have to negotiate your way around poncy foreign labels here and there, but there’s a world of wine out there waiting to be enjoyed and, if our little app can help you explore a bit, that makes it all worthwhile.

Have a great 2012 and a warm thank you to all our users!

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Apple computers have always been something special to me.

My father was a sub-editor on a newspaper, working in an office full of these amazing machines – all empowering its users (non-technical, creative types) to create newspapers before their eyes, something that only a couple of years before would have seemed like science fiction.

This was back in 1992 and, almost twenty years on, it’s amazing to think how many industries have been disrupted and how many users delighted, all thanks to Apple and, of course, Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs had a passion for typography, for music, for technology and for doing things different.

Quite how he accomplished everything he did is a mystery to me. He was a walking contradiction: a salesman with creativity; a geek with charm; a leader who got his hands dirty; an artist without a paintbrush.

Almost every aspect of the world we know has been touched by him in some way. Design, music, movies, phones, computers, business all exist in the way they do because of Steve Jobs’ influence.

Of course he died too early, but to make such an impact in only 56 years is an amazing feat.

Rest in peace, Steve.

Pause/Record/Flatulate

I’ve always loved editing. The way a story can be told an infinite number of ways, how the power of music can change the mood in a scene completely, how 1/24th of a second can make a difference between a good and a bad edit… it’s all magic.

When I got my first camcorder in the early ’90s I did what any aspiring editor would do: make animations with tortured Lego pieces, Star Wars characters, Boglins and a flatulance-heavy narrative. The only way to do it back then was to press the record button quickly on and off to record a frame; move the hapless Lego man closer to the Boglin’s mouth and press record on and off again. Hardly Wallace and Gromit, but everyone has to start somewhere.

Editing these masterpieces was another challenge, involving an expensive VHS recorder and heavy use of record and pause buttons. It worked though, it was magical, and my parents still watch these tapes with misty-eyed nostalgia. Thankfully I didn’t record over them with late-night films from Channel 4.

Debt

The expensive old days. (Image taken from Wide Open Camera)

Fast forwarding about a decade, I started working and proceeded to spend all spare money (and more) on technological goodies previously unreachable to me. I bought my first Mac and a digital camcorder. Editing was still haphazard though. Luckily for me (and my credit rating) Apple then released Final Cut Pro.

It has the dubious honour of being my first toe in the water of debt since I maxed out a credit card to buy it (yes, all £800 of it – I’ve always been one to actually buy software). It didn’t take long to start editing everything I possibly could – a holiday to Florida (the video was aptly called “Debt”), wedding videos (which can be great when done well) and the finest corporate videos ever made (in my opinion) for the company I was then working for.

However, there reached a point where I was filming far more than I was editing. Editing still took ages and just getting the video off the tape was soul destroying (any gap between scenes would create a break in the timecode and create badly synced audio). FCP ended up rarely used and I continued to amass MiniDV tapes that remain unedited pieces of nostalgia.

Video Killed The Radio Star

If you ask “What’s the best camera?” the oft-repeated answer is “The one you have with you“.

The same is true for video. These days everything is available on the Internet the moment it’s been seen by someone (usually in rough, unedited form). People blog using whatever media they can get their hands on. Millions of wannabe video journalists blog on YouTube (usually about Justin Bieber) and make cringingly embarrassing videos of themselves in the hope they’ll be shared and linked-to around the world. We’re too busy to edit, and certainly too busy to “log and capture” scenes from camcorder tapes.

These people probably don’t want even want to edit (I wish they would in many cases) – they just want to add a fade, a tacky title and maybe their lovingly-crafted ‘logo’ at the end. iMovie and the like are perfect for this.

Then there’s me. When I edit something I want to tell a story, but I also watch films of David Fincher and The Coen Brothers and love the colour grading, the music and the pacing. That’s the kind of stuff I want to add to my mini epics and that’s what FCP delivered.

FCP was embraced (eventually) by an enormous amount of professional editors and some amazing films have been edited using it (including those by the Coens and Fincher). It’s also used extensively in the broadcast field where its multi-camera support is apparently very good.

The last release of FCP (version 7) was July 2009; that’s a long, long time ago. What’s changed?

Telling a story is exactly the same. The Shawshank Redemption could feasibly have been edited in iMovie; it wouldn’t change its impact.

What has changed is that we carry around portable HD cameras with us, that indie filmmakers can make a film like Monsters with a tiny crew (and a lot of talent), that hard drive capacity has gotten even bigger and cheaper, all our computers are now 64-bit and we can download apps directly from the App Store without needing to wait for delivery (an impulse buyer’s dream).

X Marks the Spot

Apple have started from scratch and focused on the amateur/indie market with the combined accuracy and tact of a shark with laserbeam fitted to its head.

FCP X is much, much faster than before, importing video is quicker and cleverer, it’s only $300/£180, available immediately to anyone with a Mac and it has a Share to Facebook feature. (The pros love that).

The lack of tact comes from the fact that Apple have removed many of the features professionals need, that they’ve stopped selling the old FCP, that the new version doesn’t import existing projects and that they presented the new software as being the best thing since sliced bread at NAB – a conference for professional broadcasters and editors. What’s worse than hyping all these professionals (who are dying to have a faster, newer version of something they know and love) and then releasing – in their eyes – iMovie Pro.

But, to paraphrase Armageddon – they’ve done it before, they’ll do it again.

Mac OS X started from scratch and threw away established features, as they did with QuickTime and iMovie as well. Apple bought Shake, dropped the price by thousands of dollars and then just dropped the product.

FCP must have been pirated a lot by budding editors like myself. By making it more focused to us, cheaper and available instantly, far more people are going to take the plunge. And Apple are betting on the future of film being led by these young, enthusiastic editors – the kind that make a film like Napolean Dynamite, not the kind that make a film like Eat, Pray, Love (both edited in FCP; I bet Apple would be prouder of the former).

End (I should have edited more)

Apple will, apparently, add in many of the missing ‘pro’ features but for now, FCP X has given me far more inclination to make some new stories – and perhaps I’ll rediscover and edit some of my old tapes, too. And yes, I probably will use the Share to Facebook button.

The USA Zinfandel page, yesterday.

Some of us enjoy a bit of a gamble when we buy something; it’s the feeling of discovery that you can only get when you don’t know what to expect. Wine drinkers are very much like this, of course. There’s such an enormous choice of bottles out there and, despite best efforts, we’ve probably not already tasted the one we’re going to buy.

Other people prefer to play it safe and base their purchase on a review or a tasting. It is to those people we are announcing that Wine Navigator® Free is now available for you to taste, free of charge, from the comfort of your iTunes.

It features a good selection of the most popular wines (you know, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio…) along with information on each, listings of other wines you might like and wine to food matches.

Whether you decide to spit or swallow Wine Navigator, please let us know what you think of the app. We have many updates in the works and we’re adding requests from users all the time whether they’re features, wines or foods.

And, if you do decide to swallow, Wine Navigator® Plus is one click away from the app and still costs less than a glass of wine.

Download Wine Navigator® Free now!

Anyone of a certain age in the UK will be aware of Cadbury’s Creme Eggs and their unique advertising campaign, “How do you eat yours?”.

The advert touched on the notion that – at the risk of intellectualising it too much – everyone enjoys the aforementioned confectionery in their own way: some may unwrap the whole thing, some may just nibble the top tentatively, others bite off the tip and lick the insides. I’ll stop there before everything gets gooey.

The ad campaign was good and I mention it here because, like all good advertising, it can be applied to anything. In this case, it’s how you might use Wine Navigator.

Personally, I use the app almost daily. A case of ‘eating my own dog food’ and as such, I’ve used it in almost every way and setting possible (apart from in the bath – nothing much pairs with rubber duck).

So, in the spirit of Creme Eggs, without the inappropriate sexual connotations, here’s how I use mine:

• In a supermarket (or shopping online if you’re so inclined)

I’m a complete sucker for good wine labels so, if there’s something that looks good, I feel I have to reward it with a purchase. This isn’t a great way of buying wine – it’s a great way of disappointing myself as, ironically, the best wines tend to have awful labels. But, occasionally, with great label comes great wine. (If you buy solely based on the label then you’re narrowing your choice down to New World wines as everything from France and Italy tends to look like its been designed in Microsoft Word with a font choice limited to just Times New Roman).

So – my point? Find your favourite labelled wine, get out the app and find out what food goes well with it. Done!

Once you get more comfortable with this, try the same method with one of those French bottles with the nasty labels (and look out for the ones that have awards – at least you’ll know at least one person likes it).

Now that's a label.

While I’m talking about labels, the best one I’ve seen recently comes courtesy of Saint Clair Pioneer Block Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. If I designed wine labels, they’d look like this. I’d buy a case of these not even knowing how it tastes. (Luckily it’s a stunning wine).

Along the same lines, try shopping for wine online from somewhere such as Majestic (other online wine retailers are available). Pick some wines you’ve not had before from the comfort of your computer screen – or pick wines that’ll go well with food you have planned for the week. It’s fun! Not cheap though.

• At the restaurant, dressed to impress

Restaurant wine lists can be very intimidating (especially the ones where there are pages of similar sounding wines – are there any actual houses in Bordeaux or just vineyards?!). Wine Navigator can, once again, come to the rescue.

One of the recent reviews on the UK App Store was great: “On a date and Dad’s a wine bore so needed to know my stuff. Good app”

Based on the reviewer’s name – Tabbygirl1 – I’ll assume she’s on a date with a guy. Firstly, I love the fact that she’s choosing the wine. “You go girl!”

Secondly, to look on the App Store for a suitable app, download it, look for wine on it and then review it, I’d hope her date wasn’t sat, bored, across the table while she did all this research. Or maybe he was in the toilet for an extended period of time, regretting the oysters while she was finishing his Chablis and looking on the app for something that went well with dessert.

We’ll never know what happened, but it shows how useful an app like this can be in that situation. Not every restaurant has a sommelier but with Wine Navigator at least you can always have one in your pocket, albeit small and iPhone-shaped.

• At home, cooking up a feast

There’s nothing sadder to me than an empty wine rack or chiller; its holes really need to be filled for it to be truly happy. Anthropomorphism aside, I think it’s always good to have a wide range of bottles ready for action as it’s enormous fun to choose a wine you want to drink and then cook something suitable.

Wine Navigator is great for picking the wine and then choosing the food to have with it. I do it all the time – it not only increases my knowledge of wine but also forces me to try new foods as well and my culinary skills have improved enormously from those times years ago when ‘cooking’ a Pot Noodle was a struggle (that powder left at the bottom… blergh).

So, there’s a small selection of ways the app can be used. The more you use Wine Navigator, the better it gets, and tell your friends if you find a great new wine – after all, there’s more to life than just Pinot Grigio.

Oh, and how do I eat Creme Eggs? I don’t – they’re repulsive.

Wine Navigator is available on iTunes now (for less than the cost of a glass of wine).

The first in hundreds (no, really) of planned updates to Wine Navigator has gone live and it’s cheesier than ever.

Cheesy in a good way – it doesn’t sing Agadoo to you when you start it up, nor does it smell of old socks.

It’s cheesy because we’ve added many more cheeses and wine matches and, if there’s something Joe Wine Lover enjoys (wine really is his middle name), it’s wine and cheese.

For instance, did you know one of the best matches with cheddar cheese is Brunello di Montalcino? (A splendid wine which comes from the bosom of the Tuscan hills).

Well, I didn’t know that until I used the app. I have since gone out and purchased a bottle of the Brunello and a slab of cheddar. Don’t tell an Italian that one of the best cheeses for Brunello is English cheddar or you’ll get a parmesan-enduced bruising to the face.

Of course, the frustration with making an app full of wines, foods and pairings of both, is that it can never really be full. What we can promise is that we’ll keep adding new (and exciting) wine styles and foods until we go blue in the cheese.

In the meantime, if you have any requests for foods or wines that we’ve neglected to include (here we go with all the French ones – they have more wine styles than people) – please let us know in the comments below or on our website.

So, what else is new?

Well, anyone who had the app previously will find they’re now proud users of Wine Navigator® Plus. This, admittedly, may be noticed with surprise and confusion.

“Plus, what?”, you may ask.

Well, it’s plus the word ‘plus’, really. Nothing else, it’s just a name change. We also added a ® and removed the ‘The‘, all in the name of marketing.

Anyway – we’ll be back soon with another exciting update – there’ll be more foods, more wines, more features and (how about this) wine from a mystery country.

For now, here’s a challenge for you… get the app (if you haven’t already), find the wine from Georgia and tell us what it is below. You won’t win anything but you’ll feel that bit smarter than the rest.

(And if you find the said wine for sale, you really deserve to win a prize…)

Here we are at #24 in the UK's top Lifestyle apps.
We're good, but we're no Fart Machine Extreme.

Journalistic convention dictates that it’s better to have a headline that offers a glimpse, a tease – perhaps even a witty clue – to what the article is about. But here I’ve just gone and blurted it out with a combination of spittle and excitement.

So, as you’ve read, The Wine Navigator is the best selling wine app in the UK! We’re tremendously proud to see that we are being downloaded so much on Her Majesty’s isle and the (currently) eight five star reviews are also really encouraging.

We have some great updates planned so stay tuned and – rest of the world? Yes – you all, I’m talking to you. Download the app as well, you’ll love it just as much as your friends in the UK with the added bonus that you can actually drink wines made in your own country.

Firstly, let’s get the pleasantries out of the way – Happy New Year!

All of us at PawPaw hope you had a great Christmas (or ‘Holiday’ if we’re to be politically correct) and that January is going well so far. We also want to thank each and every one of you who downloaded The Wine Navigator over the Christmas period. Clearly Christmas + iPhone + wine is a popular combination and hopefully you found some great new wines and food pairings using the app.

But – we want more people to use The Wine Navigator, so as a little treat for you this January we’re giving away 25 copies! All you have to do is head on over to MacWorld UK’s Facebook page, “like” them and get a promo code from the list available.

We have some great updates coming up so get your copy for free and then get yourself a decent bottle of wine to celebrate. (Any bottle will pair perfectly with the app, don’t worry).

Hurry!

MacWorld UK on Facebook

It’s not good enough to make an app and then not use it.

Having said that, I don’t remember the last time I felt the need to prod a farm animal and make a tune… Farm Idol is still available by the way, your kids will love it.

Anyway – luckily for us, The Wine Navigator has been a useful tool for all of us since we started development (well, apart from Francis, since he knew it all already). So, finding myself on a cold night in Rome on a Friday night I thought it would be a good opportunity to go to a good restaurant and try the app.

I never liked Bambi anyway.

The restaurant – Cantina Tirolese – specialises in Austrian food (the Pope used to go there, you know, before he started wearing a silly hat) and, once comfortable on our table, my wife and I looked at the menu – and then at the app.

This is where The Wine Navigator is a wonder. There are several ways of using it really, and it fits in well however you want.

We’ve been to the restaurant before and had a great bottle of Pinot Noir, so were inclined to be predictable and drink the same again. We weren’t sure what to eat though… The menu, full of mountainy delights such as goulash and fondue, all sounded tempting but we wanted something that’d go well with the Pinot.

Out comes The Wine Navigator.

We select Wine > Food and it gives us several options from which to choose. One of them stood out as being perfect for us – venison. Carne di cervo had caught our eye on the menu so we ordered and had it cooked/prepared by a wonderful waiter called Leo right in front of us, complete with a side of potatoes, a fruity sauce and typical Italian flair and hand gestures.

Both the wine and the venison were amazing (and a perfect match) and it’s unlikely we’d have tried the venison were it not for The Wine Navigator’s recommendation.

So, I invite you to try the same and tell us how successful the match was by adding a review on the app’s page on iTunes, here on the blog, on Twitter or through the PawPaw website.

*Incidentally, dog food is not a recommended option in the app and refers instead to when a company uses their own products. But you knew that…

The Wine Navigator on an iPhone, yesterday.

It’s been a long time coming – a year of development! – but it’s finally here, on the App Store and soon to delight its users with a myriad new wine varietals to try and food matches to discover.

We’re planning some big updates so, for now, snap the app up cheap as we’ll put the price up soon to help pay Matt’s bail.

Remember to rate it on iTunes, and do tell us if you have any comments – good or bad – as we need to be kept on our toes.

The Wine Navigator on iTunes.