Mobile phones and tablets mean we now have the world at our fingertips. And that includes wine - whether it's knowing the latest news, being entertained and educated, or organising our lives with just a few clicks. Matt Walls looks at the eight leading apps on the market right now.
Search for wine apps in the Apple App Store or Google Play and you'll find hundreds lined up all waiting to be downloaded. But which ones really add to your drinking experience? The answer, sadly, is very few. Many of these apps are as popular and enjoyable as a 10-year-old Beaujolais Nouveau - and gathering just as much virtual dust. But there are a handful that are well worth downloading, some of which won't cost you a penny.
There are numerous reasons why there are so few decent wine apps on the market. For developers, making money from apps isn't easy. They're expensive to produce and sell for very little - if you can convince people to pay for them at all. It's even more challenging when you're dealing with a small niche market like wine lovers. One solution is to sell users a bottle of wine or two in-app. This will normally mean directing people to a third-party retailer and taking a cut; but margins on wine are slim already, and a thin slice of a small morsel amounts to slim pickings.
Furthermore, accurately predicting which wines an individual might enjoy is tricky. Taste isn't rational. Just because I like Muscadet doesn't mean I don't like Meursault. I like Syrah, but not Shiraz. I like Malbec - but not all Malbecs. To date there's only one thing on my device that I use to point out specific new wines I might enjoy and that's my favourite wine merchant's phone number.
Consequently, most wine apps that perform well don't try and tell you exactly what to buy. They help connect you with other wine lovers, review the best places to enjoy wine, suggest food matching ideas, provide interesting and useful background information, help you learn, keep track of wines you've enjoyed or just let you indulge your inner wine geek. The following apps do all that and more.
iOS and Android; free. Pro version Â£2.99
Enjoying wine is a social pursuit and much of the fun of wine comes from sharing. So itâs hardly surprising that several social networks have emerged that help wine lovers connect. The concepts are comparable, and involve uploading wines as you drink them (usually by automatic label recognition or barcode scanning), writing a note and awarding a rating. You can follow and interact with other users, and it also acts as a journal of what you have been drinking. Vivino is the pick of the bunch. Set up in 2009, it has more than seven million users and boasts greater depth, interest and usability than its rivals. The Pro version enables you to upload and keep track of the wines in your rack or cellar. On the rare occasion the label-recognition software fails, Vivino staff fill in the wine details for you manually, but it takes time; Pro users get to jump the queue.
Delectable (iOS only, free) is similar but with a more lightweight design, and is also worth a look.
Approach Guides Wine
iOS only; Â£1.99
Dozens of apps offer background details on regions, varieties, and food pairings, but some are more accurate and usable than others. Approach Guides Wine is the most complete and user-friendly. You can search by style, region, grape or food match, and entries are cross-referenced. It also supplies a guide to vintages for each region and plentiful maps (some more detailed than others).
Pocket Wine ((iOS only; Â£2.49 for full version) is another fun example. A bank of more than 100 varieties grouped by style, it has detailed information and extensive food-matching ideas.
Enogea Wine Maps
iOS only; Â£4.99-Â£5.99
Bordeaux and Piedmont devotees will love these apps. Produced to an impressive level of detail, accuracy and design, they offer annotated maps of the area in question, whether the broader region such as Barolo, or a more specific sub-regional map such as Castiglione Falletto (iPad only). They also contain producersâ details and geographical co-ordinates, which would prove invaluable if youâre planning a visit.
Burgundy lovers should download Burg Map (iOS only; free) which delineates all the various climats. Wine Maps (iOS only; Â£0.69) is another handy resource. It includes more basic maps of every major wine-producing country, some with additional regional and sub-regional maps.
When Wine Tastes Best
iOS only; free to access current or past days
Future dates Â£0.69 or Â£1.99 This is a simple yet elegant app that shows you when your wine is likely to taste at its best according to the biodynamic calendar. You can view by week or by day, and it even specifies the best times of day. If the thought of opening your best bottles on a root day fills you with dread, this will help you avoid them. Includes a concise and well-written introduction to biodynamics.
If youâre on Android, download BioGarden instead. It doesnât have the same level of detail, but itâs free to look at future dates.
Local Wine Events
iOS and Android; free
A straightforward app that lists wine events that are taking place near you or the city or country of your choice (the US and UK are particularly well represented). There is little in the way of supplementary functionality, but it is free, and would be particularly useful if youâre travelling abroad and not plugged in to the local wine scene.
UK Wine Tax Calculator
iOS only; free
Ever wondered exactly how much of your hard-earned money goes on tax when you buy a bottle of wine? Enter the retail price and alcohol content of your bottle and this app will show you in a simple infographic. Useful for encouraging your friends to trade up.
WSET Wine Game
iOS only; free
Youâve got between six and 10 wines and just 60 seconds to place them in the correct country, region or sub-region. Go! Okay, so itâs not exactly Grand Theft Auto, but it has six skill levels and itâs strangely addictive, not to mention great for your wine geography. (Rumours that all Wine & Spirit Education Trust exams will follow this format in future are entirely unfoundedâ¦)
iOS and Android; free
It may not be designed with wine in mind, but Twitter is an invaluable app for wine lovers. If you want to hear about whatâs on the mind of many of the top wine writers and professionals, you can follow them here and even strike up a conversation. Whatever the latest wine news is, Twitter is where youâll hear it first. If youâre not on it, you should be.
Wine websites you should be visiting
No doubt youâre a regular reader of Decanter.com and DecanterChina.com and may also dip into JancisRobinson.com and eRobertParker.com, but here are other sites all wine lovers should check outâ¦
This is a dedicated price comparison site for wine, featuring more than six million wines from over 50,000 merchants worldwide. Itâs invaluable not only for making sure youâre getting the best prices, but also for tracking down hard-to-find wines. It may not be the most beautiful website in the world, but itâs one of the most useful. Itâs free, but for full search results youâll need to download the Pro version ($43 per year), which is well worth the money.
If youâre short on ideas for which wine to serve with a particular dish (or vice versa), this website is a great resource. It contains a seemingly endless bank of articles featuring tried-and-tested matches written by wine writer, author and Decanter contributing editor Fiona Beckett (plus the occasional guest writer). Plenty of other content such as competitions, reviews and Beckettâs blog to keep you entertained.
The leading online cellar management tool. Itâs unbeatable for keeping tabs on your collection without having to get down on your hands and knees with a torch. It also has a searchable bank of nearly four million usergenerated tasting notes. Very handy for gauging whether itâs the right time to open that special bottle. You can also access your account via their app, which is supported by both iOS and Android.
Anyone considering investing in wine would be wise to first take a look at this website, written by drinks journalist and Decanter contributor Jim Budd. It offers sound advice and points out the potential risks and pitfalls involved. His blog http:// investdrinks-blog.blogspot.co.uk/ is also worth reading, and offers commentary on specific cases, dodgy companies and shady individuals.