Basically, a pure tasting note site is just another social network. It was a big community and it had that going for it, but there wasn’t another route to revenue. I know from personal experience that just building a community can be very satisfying and gratifying (making connections, seeing businesses flourish, providing a service to a community you really enjoy) but keeping that community active goes beyond charity because its all take with little return – which ultimately isn’t sustainable.
On the tasting note side: In theory, the idea of keeping tasting note repository seems like a good idea but the reality is its mathematically extremely difficult since wine changes every year and the same winery has a different set of wines every year.
I speculate that even the largest site (CellarTracker) doesn’t have a critical mass of users. Its easily the most useful, but I don’t think its got critical mass…yet. You can easily get on there and search for a wine and not find relevant reviews. The number of wines and wineries and the fact they change every year makes the possible hit rate extremely low unless there are just a HUGE number of users. The more the users the bigger the “cache” will be (the small percentage of wines that cause the greatest number of hits) and the better the site will be. I had a couple MIT buddies kick it around with me and its just not doable without massive investment in user base. There has to be more value then a community and their tasting notes.
I’ve theorized that for years and Cork’d just proved it. It has to be a feature of a larger idea.
Cork’d was cool though. Too bad.
What about Vinfolio? The tasting note portion is a feature of their marketplace and “white glove” service. I actually love their execution. Its a case study; winetrepreneurs should bone up on what Steve did over there with his team (or maybe go to Harvard B-school 🙂