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Kulers Uncorked: Wine Apps

Gil Kulers, CWE

Gil Kulers, CWE

The Vivino app scans a wine's label and instantly lists everything from nearby retailer to ratings from consumers and publications.

The Vivino app scans a wine's label and instantly lists everything from nearby retailers to ratings from consumers and wine publications.

One of the earliest wine gadgets (and I understand it is still available in specialty shops) was actually two devices that worked in combination. They are called “Pen” and “Paper 1.0.” They are very reliable, require no charging, but provide no backup systems.

In the Paleolithic Age of wine appreciation, let’s say the 1990s, I filled hundreds of notebooks with tasting notes. Twice in the past 10 years, I’ve bravely accessed the dozen or so shoe boxes I’ve accumulated. Both times it was for a friend who required information from an ancient tasting I attended.

It’s not that I don’t want to revisit wines I’ve tried. It is just a challenge. The information in those notebooks remains sound and valuable. I just find accessing the information difficult and cataloging a pain.

Modern times have helped greatly in our ability to easily record and retrieve the info. I tossed the notebook system long ago and was an early adopter of using my cell phone camera to record labels. I also started using my laptop to record my impressions and other tidbits about wines. This allowed for much easier searches and is something I still do to a degree.

With the explosion of apps, these basic functions (and many other utilities) are handled for me by easy-to-use phone apps. I recently spent the better part of two days wading my way through the 500+ wine apps in the iTunes Store to see what’s available today.

Here are some of the ones you’ll find on my phone:

Memorable Wines ($1.99)—Essentially, this is everything I’ve ever wanted to catalogue my wine notes. You can type in info on the wine or use a voice memo. There are many pre-selected checkboxes you can touch to reduce typing, such as wine color, love it/forget it and varieties. You can take one or two images. This allows you to record the front and back label (or perhaps who you enjoyed the wine with). The feature I use the most is “search,” which allows me to quickly ferret through hundreds of entries with key words. Larry Peters, one of Memorable Wines’ designers, says his team is working on an iCloud backup feature, which should be ready in 2014.

Vivino (free)—Instead of Googling through hundreds of useless internet entries, what if you could just snap a picture of a label and find out just about everything you’d want to know? Essentially, that’s what Vivino does. Vivino scans the label like a QRC reader and instantly you’ll see reviews (professional and community), vintage info, pricing and nearby wine shops that have carried it. Developers have a database of 1 million labels to compare to your wine’s label using something approaching face-recognition software. I tried to stump this app with the most obscure wine I could find. I was successful to a point, but in less than 24 hours, I had an e-mail from a Vivino rep (yes, a real person) with all the info I could possibly want. He even thanked me for adding to their database. The Vivino PRO ($4.99) allows you to catalogue your collection and perform manual searches of their label data base. Available for iPhones and Androids.

Wine Picks & Pairings: Natalie MacLean (free)—One of my favorite wine writers, Natalie Maclean, has put out an app similar to Vivino in that you scan the UPC code and up pops tons of info on your wine. What I like about this app is MacLean’s food-pairing suggestions (or wine-pairing suggestions for different foods). You also get access to her down-to-earth reviews of thousands of wines (free for the first two months, then $2.10/month). ($1.99)—For the wine geeks out there, this app works in concert with CellarTracker, the on-line database of 3 million reviews from somewhat obsessive wine lovers. It has a cellar management feature and a handy glossary of the more obscure wine terms. You can also view wines side-by-side to compare vintages or makers. It uses a UPC code scanner and requires iOS5 or later.

Wine Spectator Wine Ratings+ (free)–A handy information guide that is more of an electronic version of the Wine Spectator magazine than an app. It has vintage info for 55 wine regions, interesting vignettes on a broad variety of subjects from their writers and lots of solid, basic wine info. For a $2.99/month subscription, you get access to the magazine’s vault of thousands of reviews, wine maps, games and how-to videos on a range of subjects.

Gil Kulers is a sommelier and maitre d’ for an Atlanta country club. You can reach him at

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