Savvy Sommelier

January/February 2009

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Savvy Sommelier

Photo: Michael Bennett

Lively and expressive, complex and well-balanced. A fine cabernet? Perhaps. But also a description of Alyssa Rapp, cofounder and CEO of Bottlenotes, an online wine shop and community for oenophiles.

The site, which has been called the Netflix of wine, helps people discover varietals and appellations they’ll love, based on their personal taste profiles. “We distill wine to a set of attributes, distill people’s taste preferences and make a mathematical match between the two,” Rapp, MBA ’05, explains.

It starts with a series of questions: How do you take your coffee or tea? What ethnic cuisines do you enjoy? And so on. Members then see personalized recommendations or sign up to receive wine club shipments customized to their palate and price range. They can create a digital wine journal and compare notes with others.

Rapp, 30, whose current obsessions are German and Austrian Rieslings and vintage Bordeaux, became interested in wine as a Yale undergrad and traveled in her 20s to great wine regions in Europe, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. At the GSB, she became copresident of the school’s 500-person wine club.

“As smart and well-traveled as my peers obviously were, I was surprised by how intimidated some were by wine,” Rapp says. She recently published Bottlenotes Guide to Wine: Around the World in 80 Sips, an unstuffy primer aimed at her “millennial” peers—the fastest-growing segment of the wine market.

ALICE C. CHEN is Class of ’98.

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