Behind every bottle of wine, there’s a story. Paul Salcedo wants to tell it.
Salcedo, with co-founders Jason Driver and Tuoc Luong, created BottleVin. The app uses near-field communication (NFC) technology, like the kind you might find in a contactless payment device, to allow smartphone users to simply tap their way into information about the vintners and vineyards behind individual bottles of wine.
The NFC technology can be embedded within wine labels, making for easy consumer access. BottleVin, also supports QR codes and label scans, making it the first alcohol-centric app to support all three.
Salcedo, who moved to Silicon Valley in the late 1990s to work in the tech industry, began looking at NFC after Apple made the technology accessible to third-party developers on iPhones in 2017.
“Through the years, I’ve always known I’d someday mix technology and wine together,” Salcedo said.
Having grown up in St. Helena, he remained passionate about the food and wine culture instilled in him by the valley.
BottleVin launched in May of last year, with Reynolds Family Winery in Napa as its pilot partner winery.
“This technology seemed so logical in the next step of asking – ‘how can I tell the story of this bottle?’,” owner and winemaker Steve Reynolds said. “What about the 30, 40 hands that touched and created this bottle? That’s almost as important as the flavor. People want to know their producers.”
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Upon opening the app, users also have the option to read articles written by vintners and browse featured wines. Scanning or tapping a wine bottle conjures up facts about the wine, tasting notes, and suggested pairings; users also have the option to learn about the respective wineries and hear directly from the winemakers through videos.
As direct-to-consumer sales become increasingly important for the wine industry, smaller wineries are looking for creative ways to engage with their consumer bases. Those wineries may not have the financial bearings to launch an app that would engage with their clients in the way the BottleVin does, Salcedo said, adding that it could cost “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to do such a thing.
“It levels the playing field for a lot of wineries and producers,” Salcedo said. “We could work with anyone from a boutique winery that does 100 cases a year all the way up to a large winery.”
The app has since partnered with two other wineries, Balboa Winery in Walla Walla, Washington and Bricoleur Vineyards in Windsor. As the app grows, Salcedo said, he hopes it will become a network of wineries and possibly even distilleries, creating a kind of educational platform for industry consumers.
On the producer end, the app could give its partners a chance to learn about the demographics buying their products, according to Salcedo. Users must create an account using their age, and have the option to give their gender and location, too.
“Even if the only information I have is that the buyer is a female in their 30s and lives in Southern California – especially if, say, 90% of my chardonnay is being bought by females in their 30s – that’s just enough information to be helpful,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds said the technology behind BottleVin is accessible—and he’s excited by its storytelling capacity.
“We’re the sort of family that would grow their own peaches, store them in the root cellar, and make our pie crust by hand. How do you get that message out?” Reynolds said. “Every bottle has a story behind it, and our story gets told a little more this way.”