I’m not exactly a “wine person.” Don’t get me wrong, I relish a bold Barolo or crisp Pinot Grigio as much as anyone. Maybe even more.
And that’s the problem. I pretty much like every wine I taste.
Wine people are a different breed. They revel in the subtle differences between oak accents and earth tones. They pore over a bottle’s subtle nuances and tannins like drug–sniffing dogs working suitcases at the Mexican border. They speak reverently about soil conditions and small batches and micro-climates.
I just drink the stuff. And baby, it’s all good.
But I’m aspirational. I want to learn more, explore new vintages, and immerse myself in the world’s oldest art form. I want to hold my own during those endless wine discussions at dinner parties.
As always, technology can help. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of apps, websites, and digital guides to help us get smart about wine. But like wine itself, there are so many apps out there that it’s hard to know which ones can really make a difference.
I called my friend Tom Geniesse to help. Tom is the founder of a really smart group of wine stores called Bottlerocket Wine & Spirit. He started out just like me: as an appreciator of wine whose day job had nothing to do with grapes. He created Bottlerocket to help people choose wine not by color or region or grape—but by the food we are eating and the occasion for enjoying the wine.
Here are a few popular wine apps, along with Tom’s comments.
This free app comes closest to the Bottlerocket concept. It walks you through a series of interactive questions to help you choose the right bottle, things like: “What kind of food are you eating?” “How many people are in your party?” and “Is this a romantic dinner or a casual drink?”
The app then links your preferences to specific wines that fit the bill. It’s a neat experience, but there’s one flaw: there’s a good chance that a restaurant won’t stock the exact bottle from the app.
Tom Says: “Hello Vino approaches wine the way life happens. With the giant variety of wines on the market, you may find some of Hello Vino’s specific suggestions hard to find at your local joint. But you can always think of it as a guide to what’s possible.”
I often stumble upon a great bottle of wine at dinner and then completely forget its name and vintage the next day. I’ve scribbled notes on napkins and peeled off far too many labels to remember.
Vivino wants to solve this problem. It’s like Shazam for wine. You snap a photo of the label with your phone, and the app finds a match in its wine database so you can remember it later on. The app also delivers a list of local merchants who sell the bottle, which is a useful way to determine just how much that restaurant is overcharging you for the bottle.
The challenge here is accuracy. There are so many vintages and vintners out there that Vivino sometimes finds no match in its database. This should improve over time.
Tom Says: “Vivino makes recording the bottles in your life effortless. I found it very accurate identifying wineries. The software’s true genius may be crowd-sourcing reviews from fellow wine-lovers, a powerful idea if they can grow their database.”
Once you’ve discovered that special bottle and stored it on Vivino, the next question is, where do you buy it? WTSO is a good site to check out. Part eBay, part buy.com, the site offers daily sales on all kinds of wine, one bottle at a time until no more remain. You can compare labels to make sure you’re buying the right bottle, and the site also offers comparative price listings from various online merchants.
Tom Says: “Impulsive shoppers beware! The deals come thick, fast and tempting. Sourcing closeouts and end of vintages from distributors, Wines Til Sold Out offers terrific deals that are gone when they are gone. A great place to score a discount on something you love.”
Enough reading. Time to pop the cork, let it breathe, and drink a toast to wine technology.