How Wine Industry Insiders Track Their Favorite Wines on Their Phones
Whether you know a great deal about wine or simply know what type of wine you like best, there are a number of different apps that make it easier for you to discover, select, locate, and enjoy a great bottle. You can download an app (almost always for free) that will provide you with recommendations and reviews or one that will help you get same-day delivery. Many are even used by industry insiders.
So, which app should you download? First, determine what you want to get out of the experiencing of using said app. Are you looking to catalogue your tastes and manage a collection, or are you in need of advice on good pairings? Are you looking for e-commerce or education? Do you want expert industry advice or prefer crowdsourced opinions? "One of the major challenges for some of the most popular apps is that the reviews are crowd-sourced," says Elizabeth Schneider, author of Wine for Normal People ($18.24, amazon.com). "There are a lot of people rating and ranking wine that don't have a deep knowledge of wine descriptors. If you look at the numerical scores, almost everything averages out to a 3.5, which is not so helpful. The result is that as the user, you wind up with a poor idea of what the wine will actually taste like." Luckily, there are few happy mediums between the crowd-sourced sites and the review sites, she says, which can use outdated or snobby wine terms that aren't relatable. Here, wine experts recommend some apps that are worth the download.
Schneider recommends CellarTracker for the quality of the community reviews and the useful tools. "It is fantastic for keeping track of your wines," she explains. "The inventory feature is amazing, as is the notes feature." The app is also known for its ability to quickly scan barcodes of millions of wines, as well as the fact that it has label recognition which is useful when you want to retrieve reviews and information or catalogue bottles.
"Most of the people that use and comment publicly on the wines have a greater knowledge of wine, so this is a great site for observers from afar even if they don't want to add anything but just seek great info," says Schneider. "The scores are by no means homogenized, they vary drastically from vintage to vintage. For me, this is a great sign—people are paying more attention to detail." The app is free to download but you can make a donation, which Schneider encourages.
Schneider also calls Wine-Searcher a must-have app. If you're looking for a particular wine, it can track it down for you, assuming it's available somewhere out there. You can filter for location, but because it has global reach, you can also see where in the world the wine is sold, too. "They have an enormous database," she says, "and the ability to click-through to purchase the wine you want is outstanding. If you feel you may be paying too much for a wine, this will give you reassurance on what the actual retail price should be."
Wine-Searcher is also the go-to app for Corey Beck, CEO and winemaking chief at Francis Ford Coppola Winery. "It does a lot more than its name implies," he says. "Users can certainly search for the wine fitting their needs, but there is also a lot of very good educational information on grape varieties, regions, vineyards, producers, and more. They also cover spirits and other liquor."
Drizly is a marketplace that lets users order a variety of beer, wine, and spirits directly from local retailers, making it a good choice for the casual wine lover ready to make a purchase. "The convenience of this service, speed (alcohol delivered to your home within 60 minutes), along with a great user interface makes it a definite crowd pleaser," says Beck. Drizly is currently available in more than 100 cities, and its emphasis on working with independent liquor stores enables the quick delivery while also supporting smaller, local businesses.
"What's great about Drizly, especially when planning a party, is the ease of couch shopping," says Beck. "All I need to do is put in my selections. If one store is out of stock, it will automatically re-direct to another, which ends up saving a lot of time. It's also important to note how quickly they adopted to the current conditions, with offering contactless ID scanning, eliminating signatures, and similar measures to keep their consumers and drivers safe and heathy." Another fan of Drizly is Jill Russell, winemaker at Cambria Estate Winery. She likes Drizly for its ability to let fans of a particular winery find its bottles in their area. "For me as a winemaker and huge wine enthusiast, I think platforms like Drizly are a great option with all their diverse selection of producers, varietals, and regions across the globe," she says.
Russell also recommends wine.com. "They have one of the largest selections of wine and I use it both for purchasing wines not available locally, but also for competitive research when I want to compare pinots or chardonnays from the same region or same price point. It's easy to browse and sort wines based on your personal preferences and tasting habits. But, my favorite part of Wine.com is all the great content they develop to tell the story of each winery and connecting consumers to the vineyards, the region, the winemakers."
For newer wine drinkers, Kristin Olszewski, sommelier and co-founder of Nomadica, suggests Delectable. Part wine journal, part educational resource, it's handy for finding specifically curated bottle lists and bottles that pair well with certain foods. "You can follow your favorite sommeliers and winemakers and see what they're drinking," says Olszewski. "I use it to get inspired. I trust it more because I can see what the experts are drinking. I know many apps rely on the 'crowd-sourced' opinion model, but as a wine expert, I trust other experts." Delectable also has a scanning feature to retrieve information and reviews by using the phone's camera to a take a photo of the label on the bottle. The app is free but offers a premium version without ads and other features for a monthly fee.
To learn more about the geographic breadth of wine horticulture, Olszewski says Wine Maps gives a great sense of general layout of wine regions and how they relate to one another. "I use it quite a lot when I'm drinking from regions that I'm not too familiar with like Greece," says Olszewski. It's a visual reference rather than an encyclopedia of wine. You can export the maps for printing, too.
For the collector looking to buy and sell across the globe, WineBid is a weekly online auction. "You can even buy wine sourced from cellars in France," says Olszewski. "It's a great way to shop high price tag regions like Burgundy, Bordeaux, or Napa." WineBid will also appraise your collection for sale—it has a minimum for consignment—and it also offers a section of "Buy Now" wines. Bidders and sellers can track the auctions in real time.
If you're not interested in storing or archiving your wine selections, and are more concerned with visual discovery and curated picks from various experts in the wine community, some wine industry experts go the Instagram route. "Instead of hunting for the perfect wine app, I've chosen to take an app I already use and enjoy, and turn it into my own personal wine entertainment and central pulse of the industry," says Meghan Delzell, director of sales and hospitality for Sangiacomo Wines. "It serves up the best juicy details and in-depth education you can find through a digital portal and satisfies all of my thirst for knowledge about wine."
For her, it's about connecting to the wine world. "Not only does this provide a portal to my friends and family, it's a connection to sommeliers, winemakers, grape growers, barrel coopers, chefs, wine educators, journalists, and so many more," she says. "I love how it connects me to the pulse of a winery in Argentina and the provoking thoughts of a wine critic all at the same time. Instagram is really what you make it by following people, places, organizations and hashtags that resonate with your interests." Anyone for #malbec and #roséallday?
Shauna Rosenblum, winemaker at Rock Wall Wine Company agrees, calling Instagram her favorite wine app. "It has been an incredible resource for discovering new wines and staying up-to-date with what is going on in the industry," she says. "I love how easy it is to see what my peers are making and drinking. My feed is mostly wine and art, and the platform has introduced me to lots of micro-producers whose wine I have purchased through just a couple of clicks."
Lean Into Local
If you're looking for recommendations for what to buy and pair with dinner tonight, consider going low-tech. "Here in Santa Barbara's wine country, we still have a lot of rural communities so we don't always have as many options at our fingertips for delivery services," says Jill Russell. "However, my husband and I have been ordering a lot of take out from local neighborhood restaurants we love and many of them are offering wine pairings. It's a great way to support our local economy and restaurant industry friends and colleagues, as well as enjoy a nice bottle of wine from my winemaking peers."