Have you ever been presented with a wine list at a restaurant that weighs more than you do? You know what I’m talking about. Those lists in leather folders that go on for pages and pages that make your head swim. If you’re not a wine afficionado, those lists can cause some major indecision at the start of your dining experience if you let them.


I don’t let the lists scare me anymore. First of all, I’m always limited by price, so that narrows down my choices quite a bit. I just find something in my price range that I think will go with what we’re going to have for dinner, and let it go. When I hit upon the perfect combination of wine and food, it’s a bonus, but I allow myself to enjoy good food and conversation even if the wine isn’t the perfect complement.

I imagine that for a real wine afficionado, those lists cause even more indecision than they do for those who don’t take their wine so seriously. What if there is a good wine on the list that you’re not familiar with? What if you choose an inferior wine because you didn’t know that another wine was a much better choice?

Bone’s in Atlanta is making it easier to find the perfect wine without the help of a wine steward. The steakhouse is now handing out iPads loaded with its 1,350 wines. Descriptions and ratings for each wine are now a touch away.

In the six weeks since Bone’s has been giving its diners this iPad option, wine sales have jumped 11 percent. It’s too soon to know if this jump is because of the novelty of the iPad or because of the increased confidence wine drinkers now have in their choices. According to the New York Times, “Other restaurateurs who are experimenting with iPad wine lists, from Sydney to London to Central Park South, report similar results.”

If the iPad wine lists take off, there could be an unintended eco-friendly result. The reams and reams of paper used by restaurants each time they need to update their lists would be a thing of the past.

Fred Dame, a master sommelier, is quoted in the article saying, “If they build one [an iPad] that can open up a bottle of wine, I’m going to be scared to death.” There is some concern that this new technology could eventually make sommeliers and wine stewards unnecessary.

So far, Bob Reno, the wine steward at Bone’s, says his staff has come to appreciate the iPad. Customers are still asking for reassuring advice once they’ve narrowed down their choices. And, of course, an iPad can’t determine if a particular bottle has been compromised.

I’ve been known to whip out my iPhone to check out a restaurant’s menu items (both food and wine) in the past, but I’ve felt like I needed to do it in a sneaky fashion. I would welcome a chance to check out the wine or the sustainability of the seafood on a menu without feeling like I needed to hide my act from the wait staff. But then, I’d want the iPad taken away immediately so I can down to the good food and conversation. 

What do you think of this new technology-driven way of choosing wine from a menu? Would you welcome it or would you find it a bit impersonal? 

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Will iPads replace sommeliers?
An Atlanta restaurant uses technology to help diners parse its wine list. Could there be an eco-friendly upside?