It is hard to imagine what selecting a bottle of wine was like before smartphones and wine apps. For me personally, I am ashamed to say I only had 2 criteria: price and picture. If wine was under $10 per bottle and the label was attractive, I tend to buy it. The only other route was to ask a store clerk, and most of them knew little, if anything about the wine. They just know when it came in, and when they put it out.
We have come a long way in a relatively short period of time. Now the bigger stores insist the sales people on the floor taste the wine (barring any medical or personal issues). They don’t have to drink it, but they do have to sniff, swirl, sip, and spit, so they don’t become intoxicated on the job.
Wine apps make it even easier so you don’t have to rely on the opinion of the sales person. Like a relationship of any kind, you need to trust the person giving you advice. Much of the time, they might encourage you to try what they have a hard time moving, or where they will make the most profit. And yes, they do tend to push the smaller wineries over the big one, because the big names sell themselves, and the smaller brands bring a bigger profit.
There are drawbacks, and you do have to pay very close attention when using an app. You take a photo of the bottle in the store and submit it. It scans its database and brings you feedback instantly. But things you have to pay very careful attention to is the information returned. A perfect example was today. I purchased a bottle of Oberon based on the returned results of a wine called Obsidian. One had a rating of 8.9 based on 2 ratings, and the other had an 8.8 based on over 100 ratings. Four of those 125 were “pro” ratings, although I don’t know what that means. Is there a panel of experts? Or is that just the opinion of people that pay a monthly service fee for the app that unlocks other features?
Another issue I find is that one app (Vivino) rarely finds the wine, and the other app (Delectable) often mistakes a Cabernet Sauvignon for a red wine blend, or even worse, a white wine by the same winery with a similar label.
The screenshot you see here was not even remotely close. Not the vineyard, not even the same country or continent. It is not even red wine, chardonnay is white wine, clearly not a Sicilian red wine made in Italy
I do find Delectable to be the better of the two, and more reliable. However, I am hesitant to pay a monthly service fee for an app that is accurate about half the time. I’ve written them a few times to ask them about this, but never got a response.
If you are a serious wine collector, or tend to buy things by the case, you might consider Invintorywines.com – this app allows you to catalog how many bottles you have, and which section of your cellar or storage they are, etc. This might be tailored to places even like a small or large restaurant. Most of us might need to keep track of how many bottles we have, but its a fairly short search for where they are.
For this reason, I really favor CellarTracker.com – this allows you to enter all details, as many as you want. Where it was purchased, the purchase date, the value, the purchase price, etc. It allows for your own personal photos, as well as other users, when to drink, if you drank it, or if it has yet to be delivered. It might seem complex, but it really is the best overall app that I’ve come across.
For me, I search a wine at the store via Delectable, but once I bought it, I keep track of it and all notes in CellarTracker.com – the most useful feature I find on CellarTracker is you can photograph the barcode off the back of the bottle and most of the information is retrieved and saves you the time of data entry.
All these apps are free, and of course you can unlock a lot of other features if you become a premium or paid member.
Here are some tips:
- Always take advantage of a free trial. Do not pay for something you do not find the value of.
- Double check results. A Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 will not be identical to a Cabernet from the same vineyard/winery as a 2017 or 2019. I find it varies even with the most consistent brands like Mondavi.
- Check the ratings thoroughly. If a wine only has a few ratings, you might pass on it. Those could be the opinions of 3 people that work for the winery or brand. If a particular wine has 50 ratings and average 8.8 and a pro rating of 8.7, chances are that is a fairly decent wine with a fair analysis.
- Be sure to fill out the questionnaire or questions they ask when you create an account. For example if white wine is not your thing, no matter how good it is, it might not ever be to your liking if your preference is Chianti.
- Take a clear photo of the wine label of the bottle you want to evaluate, and match it against the one in their database.
- Check the pricing in the app compared to the one in front of you. If you are in a boutique wine shop, you might find that the wine is several dollars more than the average of another store in the same area.
- Leave notes if and when you can. Not just for yourself, but for other users. These apps often work like social media and they can be helpful to you and others as long as the notes are descriptive. Rather than saying “this wine sucks” give detailed notes like “very bitter finish” or “rough”. If you find yourself using these notes over and over for a certain type of wine like Bordeaux, perhaps that is characteristic of the grape and the wine it produces, so try a different variety all together.
There are other apps as well including the big national stores, but often they only include those wines in their inventory. The big wine magazines might only include wines that are more expensive and out of your price range, so look for their “Top Wines under $25” or whatever your budget is. I rarely spend over $20 for a bottle of wine, more likely $12, and yes, it is possible to find a wine to suit your tastes in that price range if you are using the right app. Test them side by side and see which one gives you better results for your palate.
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