There are two things I particularly love about the internet. One is the element of surprise: the way you find something good entirely by accident. The other thing is the opportunity it provides for someone with a small but good idea to publish useful information or provide a service that couldn't exist in any other form. Both these qualities were in evidence when I recently made the online acquaintance of www.supermarketwine.com.
Supermarketwine is the creation of Edward MacDermott, a web designer and wine lover. He had the experience of tens of thousands of other wine drinkers facing the mile-long wine shelves in supermarkets: "There's a lot of wine for sale, and very little in- store help, so it is very hard to make a decision if you don't know much." MacDermott read columns like this one, and "was sure that somewhere on the shelves were wines which had been given the thumbs up by wine critics, but I just couldn't remember which ones". He knew that "there had to be an easier way to do this," and one day he realised what it was. So was his website born.
Supermarketwine.com's premise is simple. Every week, MacDermott trawls the major national newspapers to see what's been recommended in their wine columns. He then puts those wines on to the site, with listings that are searchable by retailer, grape variety, country of origin, "taste tags", and price. Taste tags are key words that MacDermott picks out of the reviews so that readers can search, for instance, for wines described as rich, bearing blackberry or cassis flavours, or good for a barbecue.
MacDermott's site is not merely a shopping list: he doesn't just say that Richard Ehrlich recommended Chateau Rumsfeld 2002, Ctes-du- Potomac on 21 September and leave it at that. Every recommendation is linked to the online edition of the relevant paper, so browsers can see the wine in its original editorial context. Another feature I particularly admire is his flagging of wines recommended at a discount price. All link to a disclaimer pointing out that when the promotional period is over, the recommendation might not stand. And there is space for users to add their comments about the recommended wines. …