There are more wine apps out there than anyone could possibly want — or need. The iTunes and Google Play app stores each contain hundreds of apps for oenophiles: tasting logs, wine pairing services, review databases, educational services, and many others.
But which ones are really useful? As a longtime wine collector, I decided to try as many as I could, and found three that stood out. These apps, which combine the concept of a tasting log with social networking features, also allow for instant identification through using your phone’s camera, and comparison pricing.
1. Delectable is best for following “wine celebs” and living vicariously off of their tasting notes (available for Android and iPhone).
Delectable had the best label recognition of the three favorites and, for me, had the most people actively uploading wines to the platform. These include numerous wine writers and sommeliers like Ray Isle of Food & Wine magazine and Jay McInerney, novelist and wine writer for Town & Country.
Following these writers can induce extreme wine envy, so beware. McInerney in particular seems to regularly drink wines that most people would consider a once-in-a-life-time experience (see the image above for one such example.)
Pros: Delectable has the fastest and most accurate image matching, the most experts to follow, and a ratings system that allows for the most granularity of measurement.
Cons: The app often had more expensive prices on wines than others in the category for e-commerce. And it's not currently available for Windows Phone.
Vivino performs well against its comparative set, though it doesn’t have as many wine experts regularly using the service, and its image matching was slightly less reliable than Delectable’s service.
This app is your best choice if you dine out regularly at high-end restaurants. Your location data allows Vivino to point you to restaurant wine lists in your immediate area (see photo at right).
From there, it will also provide data on the wines on those lists. If you’re the type of person who studies the wine lists of restaurants before you visit, this is very helpful.
The app can also help you navigate large wine lists, and provides a valuable second opinion when deciding on a specific bottle.
Pros: Vivino shows wine lists near you, as well as many “verified wine lists” (at least in New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago, where I tested it). Its premium features pull in ratings subscriptions and additional information, and it's the only app in this category available for Windows Mobile.
Cons: Fewer wine experts than Delectable.
3. Drync is best for people who plan on using their tasting notes to purchase wine via the app (available for Android and iPhone).
Drync is more focused on wine discovery than Delectable and Vivino, and features more curated lists of wines the service thinks you will enjoy. (Though many other apps also feature this content, it is less prominently displayed.)
Photo matching was solid, and the prices for matched wines were lower (on average) than the other apps I tried. Unless you are connected via social networks to wine experts, you won’t see their choices on this app.
Pros: Drync has the best prices from wine stores and more content aiding in wine discovery.
Cons: No wine experts to follow and no version for Windows Phone.
Any of the above apps will help you keep track of and discover specific wines. I often use these apps in wine stores when I’m debating a purchase, and it has proven very useful when considering price and reviewing wines.
I also enjoy keeping track of the wines I’ve been drinking recently and staying connected with friends who also obsess about these things.
The biggest problem with any of these apps is that my friends are dispersed across all three (and others), and no sane person would maintain their presence across multiple apps serving virtually the same function for any period of time. I highly recommend downloading one based on the strengths that best map to your needs. For me, that app was Vivino, but all three were very helpful and worth my time.
Some other wine apps worth checking out:
Wine Spectator WineRatings+(available for Android and iPhone): With this app, Wine Spectator Magazine’s exhaustive wine reviews become much more usable than they are in print with a paid subscription.
For many people the paid version of the app offers more information than they need and is not worth the monthly $2.99 fee, but the free content alone is very helpful and worth the download.
My favorite feature is the vintage charts, which guide you to the best vintages for particular regions and wine varietals (see photo at left for an example of the Brunello vintage chart.)
While helpful when considering a purchase, this becomes even more beneficial to the collector when he or she is trying to determine when to drink their aged wines.
There is also a news feed of content from the magazine and some helpful videos on tasting and collecting wine.
Cellar Tracker(available for Android, iPhone, and Windows): Cellar Tracker is the extension of the very popular site of the same name, and it provides an enormous collection of reviews from wine collectors.
Most of these reviews are very well-informed and the collection of reviews of a particular wine tends to surface a collective opinion that is pretty useful.
The app, in addition to providing access to all of these user reviews, allows you to manage your collection in an extremely efficient manner. Instead of utilizing the images on the label like the tasting notes apps, this app scans UPC codes. This works well, and when I found that many of the wines in my “cellar” didn’t actually have UPC code, the alternate search engine never failed me.
What makes this app so useful for collectors is that it allows people with lots of wine to track their inventory and make notes on location and quantity. The bigger your collection, the more useful this app becomes. If you tend to have a couple of cases or less in your home, this feature becomes less useful.
If you are at all interested in keeping track of your favorites or organizing your private collection, the smartphone and these apps will make your life much easier.