Sommeliers have new competition out there, and it isn't human. Nor can it taste, smell or open a bottle for you.
I was a wee bit worried when I first heard of Entaste. As a sommelier, perhaps my profession was about to come under threat from tech geeks.
Entaste, you see, is an interactive iPad wine list that restaurants are using in lieu of a printed version. It's designed to look like an actual wine list, but with the advantage that users can access information on just about any wine they like. Want to search for wines by grape or region? Just select a tab at the top of the screen. Want to know about a specific winery? Another touch of the screen and there you are.
Entaste was launched in 2009 in California by David Garrett, who, after 23 years as an intranet developer, retired and caught the wine bug on his travels in Latin America. While living in Mendoza, Argentina, he was fortunate enough to have French oenologist Michel Rolland as a neighbour, and through their friendship, was able to taste many wines.
As a novice wine lover, Garrett observed that unless there was a sommelier on staff at a restaurant, he couldn't find much information on bottles that interested him. He found that he was spending a lot of time on his phone looking up wineries that were unfamiliar to him. That was when he came up with the idea of developing a programme that puts information on grapes, regions, wineries and winemakers all in one place.
So does it make sommeliers redundant? "I believe that utilising the Entaste app saves time at the table, and gives the sommelier more time to do pairings for a guest and focus on service, as he is not just standing in front of the guest reciting facts," says Garrett.
As an old-fashioned, flesh and blood sommelier, I see no substitute for the experience of browsing a traditional wine list - especially one cataloguing a cellar that has been carefully assembled over time - and selecting a bottle to drink.
But, as Garrett explains, Entaste is only an additional tool that may enhance your drinking experience.