Like discovering a beautifully aged bottle of Bordeaux or an inexpensive diamond in the rough, comparable is the excitement of uncovering a new resource that does all the "dirty work" of beveraging for you. Enter WineChap, a new online resource developed by two boozie Brits - Boo Murphy and Tom Harrow - that delivers real-time news and reviews of wine lists for New York City restaurants, based on value, variety and character. They do the work, all you do is drink the glass.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Talia Baiocchi and pick her brain about all things wine, and of course all the site's offerings, from events and private tastings to tourism services and iPhone apps.
Q: Tell us about the concept behind WineChap. Did it evolve from a personal desire to have this information at your own fingertips?
Boo Murphy is the former VogueUK.com food writer and Tom Harrow is a well-known importer and frequent contributor to "More Intelligent Life" (The Economist). Being the experienced drinkers/diners that both of them are, they are constantly harassed by friends to make wine list recommendations at restaurants. So, both of them, in a moment of great wisdom and clarity, decided to turn it into a business. Now, following the original UK launch in March 09, we are in both Hong Kong, and of course, NYC. Q: How do you go about finding the information shown on your site? We are lucky enough to have great resources throughout the industry that contribute research. Of course, much of the information is critical review and blogging which is largely organic and a product of experience. Q: Do you only consider higher-end restaurants, or can we find budget deals too? Of course! We cover a great variety of lists on the site. By no means are they all high-end – in fact, the great majority are not. We’ve found that the mid-level lists at, say, restaurants like Bar Henry and Maialino generally are the most interesting and personality driven. Of course, value is one of the most important factors in determining the merit of a wine list – high end or not. It can be relative (e.g. for a restaurant of its caliber Eleven Madison Park has a good number of garage sale items) or those that represent value even out of context.
*Talia just wrote a blog post on the 6 greatest value wine lists in the city and the wines worth visiting for, which you can check out here.
Q: Can you provide some tips on choosing a great wine? Use your sommelier! They are there to guide you through the--often daunting--food pairing process and in most cases, they don’t bite. Be open-minded. Some of the great value wines in the world can be obscure and a bit challenging, but if you are open to traveling outside your comfort zone you’re more likely to score. The greatest trend is the frequency with which we are seeing obscure varietals and small production artisan wines from the Loire Valley, Jura, Friuli, etc. It is the golden age for the adventurer.
Q: Tell us more about some of the extra services you provide in addition to the advice on wine lists.
Premier Crew is something that we are all excited about. Chiefly, the service will provide our members with a personal wine buyer. Not only will we advise on cellar building and everyday buying, but we are an objective source that is able to use our relationships to procure wines from a variety of different retailers. Aside from buying, as a member you essentially have access to the physical version of the information you find on WineChap. We are there to recommend wines over the phone and call the restaurant ahead of time to make sure all wines are prepared before the member arrives. Members also receive access to exclusive events and can attend events open to all WineChap Chums at discounted pricing. This is just the tip of the iceberg – as our services evolve, Premier Crew members will always have priority access to everything we offer through the site.
Additionally, our iPhone app is an excellent tool that is truly useable. We are working on improving the current version and have been exploring the Droid and Blackberry to develop compatible apps for those devices as well.
Q: Can you provide some tips on choosing a great wine? Use your sommelier! They are there to guide you through the--often daunting--food pairing process and in most cases, they don’t bite. Be open-minded. Some of the great value wines in the world can be obscure and a bit challenging, but if you are open to traveling outside your comfort zone you’re more likely to score. The greatest trend is the frequency with which we are seeing obscure varietals and small production artisan wines from the Loire Valley, Jura, Friuli, etc. It is the golden age for the adventurer. Q: Any plans for WineChap lists for other cities? How about globally? Yes, certainly. The next city we plan to tackle in the US is Los Angeles and we are aiming to do so within the calendar year. Globally, we have our sights set on the Southern Hemisphere (Australia, specifically).
Got a gadget that will revolutionize the industry? How about a great deal to your hotel or at your vineyard? Any recipe suggestions or wine pairing ideas? Or simply think your wine is worth some BUZZ? Give us a shout!
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