Within hours of each other, two people excitedly asked if I’d heard about the wine app Bottlestock. Given that neither is particularly app-savvy, it seemed time to start paying attention to what was happening in this little corner of technology.
It’s one I haven’t explored much since about five years ago, when a wine geeky collector friend demonstrated one of the first wine apps to me over dinner. It was cool, but, lacking an app-capable phone at the time, well…
Yet, even becoming iPhone enabled didn’t make me want to photograph and catalog the wines I drank. Mostly, I turn to my cellar for bottles; remembering what I’ve had isn’t a problem.
Even when I explore at tastings or wine dinners, my recording is usually done with pencil and paper, not bits and pixels.
So with a list of recommended apps and a motley collection of wine bottles (from an obscure Australian wine to well-known labels) I set forth to explore – and see if I would become a convert.
Most apps do the same basic tasks, allowing users to take and archive a photo or scan of the label, connect with friends to see what they’re drinking, get recommendations based on what previously entered wines, and even order some for delivery to your door.
The differences are in the details.
First up was Vivino, whose motto is “never forget another wine.” This app was a little challenged with the lesser-known wines – it kept suggesting Ravenswood Zinfandel for the Bedrock Zin label photographed – but once I figured out how to manually input the data, overcoming that limitation was easy.
I checked the recommendations after entering just a few wines, and the only ones that came back were from a Mike G., who’d liked the same Barbera I did. The suggestions, however, were all over the board, including lots of Portuguese wine – weird because I hadn’t input any Portuguese wines.
Once several better-known wines were added to the data, the recommendations started to make more sense, even if they weren’t too inventive: Caymus Conundrum as an input resulted in Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon and the Caymus Special Selection Cabernet as well as several other Napa Cabs. At least the recommendations were for quality wine.
Oh, Bottlestock, what are you thinking? The first recommendation they offered to me was Sutter Home White Merlot. Listen, I know a lot of people out there love this stuff, but really?
At any rate, it was super-easy to input wines, even if not all of them were recognized. The list of descriptive words to pick from helps streamline a flavor profile, though for me, the words given weren’t always ones I would use. Overall, this app was just kind of…whelming.
Delectable was the third app I tried. It was also intuitive to use, and I loved the “pros picks” suggestions. This app categorizes the wines tasted by region, then sub-region, and makes suggestions based on wine areas you haven’t tried.
The app also made some good recommendations based on the Barbera wine I entered, though I couldn’t figure out how to get suggestions based on my other wines. Grrr.
Moving on, Drync impressed me because it correctly identified the most obscure bottle, a Moorooduc Cabernet from Australia’s Mornington Peninsula region. This app’s focus is on purchasing – prices pop up instantly and wine can be bought and shipped in a few clicks.
Recommendations can be found under the “Wine Lists” heading, and the selections ranged from fun (Halloween wine suggestions included The Velvet Devil, Owen Roe Sinister Hand, and d’Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz) to inventive (Explorer’s Delight, which dares recommend Lambrusco as well as other lesser-known grapes and regions) to boring (one list has four Castle Rock wines.)
It took two days of playing with Hello Vino’s find-a-wine feature to realize that, oh yeah, they also let you record labels, just like the other apps. Is it bad reporting to not have used that function?
Maybe I should have – their wine suggestions were a mixed bag.
They could totally miss the mark. For example, click Wines to Impress then Champagne and it suggests Korbel and Barefoot Bubbly Moscato Spumante…not terribly impressive. Press “Get More Recommendations” and, sorry, there are no more recommendations.
On the flip side, I requested a wine pairing for guacamole dip and Hello Vino came up with riesling, which seemed quite inspired.
All recommendations are sorted into “Highly Rated”, “Wine Picks for You”, and “Values $10 & Under.” Hello Vino also offers a “Deals” section with limited wines available at discounted prices. Overall, this was a fun and delightful app.
Last but not least, I tried WineQuest. Now THIS is fun. WineQuest is less about remembering what you drank and much more about figuring out if you’ll like the next bottle.
Users start by creating an initial taste profile by ranking over two dozen popular wines listed in the app’s database.
Then the next time you’re faced with a bottle of wine, enter its name and the app tells you, based on past preferences, if you’ll like it. The decision is based on similarity to previously rated wines and the recommendation is given as a percentage – maybe a 60% “Try It!” or a 92% “Buy it!” or perhaps an 8% “Avoid it!”
Of course, once you start using the app, you can rate bottles as you drink them, with the results factored into future recommendations.
This app also impressed me for having Moorooduc wines in its system. Finally, if you are linked with friends, the app lets you get predictions based on their taste – great for gift giving!
So what did I learn from this technological adventure? Mostly that wine apps aren’t for me, but based on how often I hear laments about forgetting the name of that great wine from dinner last week, more people need to use them!
Three Other Apps
Need more practical wine advice on your phone? One of these three apps may help.
Wine For Dummies offers lots of education in fairly short bites. As a result, some answers seemed a little incomplete (at least to me) while other tidbits were spot on. Everything is organized quite efficiently, and they cover all the major bases for wine regions, grapes, the winemaking process, and tips on how to best enjoy the wine.
The Wine Coach offers videos from Laurie Forster, which is a more cumbersome approach. The app includes podcasts with winemaker and other interviews, wine review videos, and short advice segments covering topics from storing wine and avoiding sticky lipstick on the wine glass rim.
Finally, you’d think that wine and cheese pairing would be easy. But contrary to popular belief, not all wines go with all cheeses (and vice versa.) Pair Savvy, from The Real California Cheese folks, comes to the rescue.
This app allows you to pair by cheese, beverage (wine or beer) or – huh? – chocolate. I’ve never thought about matching my gouda to dark chocolate with almonds, but now I can!
Seriously, though, this app had a wine range of cheeses, interesting recommendations and was ridiculously easy to use. It makes a great jumping-off point for a wine and cheese party – someone throw one and invite me!