CellarTracker, the on-line wine management and inventory tool, has long been the most effective way to record my wine drinking. It was straightforward, it was flexible (I could use it for my purposes, which are not quite the same as most wine drinkers), and it was free. What more could the Wine Curmudgeon ask for?
That’s why I was not happy when CellarTracker impressario Eric LeVine released the new, upgraded version and everyone had to switch Yes, the original CellarTracker had its flaws and could be clunky, but it worked. And my experiments with the beta of the new version always left me unfulfilled.
Fortunately, my fears were overblown. The new CellarTracker does what what the old one did, and does much of it better. Meanwhile, its new emphasis on social media and sharing reviews with other wine drinkers doesn’t get in the way of its basic function, which had been a concern. More, after the jump:
I am, in many ways, a computer geek. I run a Linux operating system, I mess around with beta versions of software, and I have even uninstalled and reinstalled Windows (complete with fixing a corrupt boot loader). That I tried the beta for the new CellarTracker and didn’t switch to it immediately should tell you how much I didn’t like it.
Much of that was me. I have entered more than 2,500 wines over the past five years, and I was fixed in how to do it. Click this, point here, type that. That I had to hunt – often frustratingly – to do the same thing on the beta made me crazy.
That’s because CellarTracker, in both versions, has never been especially intuitive. LeVine comes to wine from Microsoft, and CellarTracker is a lot like Windows XP – sturdy and reliable, but not very zippy.
Still, once I was forced to switch, I was able, after a week or so, to use the new version effectively. Its best new features:
• The ability to add more than one wine from the same producer (even different producers!) at the same time. In the original version, one had to add the wines one at time, typing the producer name over and over. In the new version, you can search for a producer and then click boxes for the various wines and vintages that you need to add.
• An improved search function, not only for searching the entire CellarTracker database, but for personal consumption as well (which was one of the old, clunky things). It’s now possible to use one click where several clicks and curses were necessary before.
• Wine and food pairings. It’s possible to see what CellarTracker users paired with the wines they drank. For instance, look for duck, search by individual wine, and you’ll find that 6.7 percent of the users who ate duck and entered the information drank the 2009 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape. I’m not sure how useful this is, but it is fun to do.
Finally, a few thoughts on CellarTracker’s focus on social media. When I interviewed LeVine 18 months ago, it was because he had stumbled on an industry-changing development: His software’s “transformation from wine geek tool to social media platform,” as I wrote. People were using CellarTracker not just to record wines; even more were using it to read wine reviews written by other wine drinkers. That’s about as social media as it gets.
Hence the new version’s upgraded ability to follow specific CellarTracker users (I have two followers); see who has written the most tasting notes; and to like a wine, similar to liking something on Facebook. The idea is to build a wine community where people can share what they know with the like-minded – and not have to bother with the professionals who used to tell them what to drink. In this, the new version is even more revolutionary as the first.
It’s so revolutionary, in fact, that if I ever get a smart phone, it will mostly be so I can use it for CellarTracker.