Smartphone Apps to Improve Your Wine Smarts

hello-vino-resultIn this age of smartphones, tablets and instant access to information, it’s no surprise that the adage of “there’s an app for that” has made its way to the wine world.

Whether you’re a seasoned oenophile or a novice wine drinker, a little knowledge can go a long way towards choosing the perfect bottle. In researching this article, a few apps appeared repeatedly as favorites and I’ve summarized them for you here:

Hello Vino (hellovino.com) is a robust wine pairing and suggestion app for the iPhone and Android. It can recommend wines with popular picks, value options and accolades. It lets you browse categories and subcategories of wines based on occasions, taste preferences, and wine varieties. You can take pictures of wine labels and use the app to get ratings, food pairings and tasting notes among others. It has a photographic memory which will help you remember your favorite wines. It also provides audio reviews. Cost: Free

Snooth Wine Pro (snooth.com/iphone-app) for iPhone lets you snap a picture of a wine label and the app automatically matches it to Snooth’s database of over one million wines. Once a match is found, the app gives you plenty of data to help you locate it near you or find an appropriate substitute if it’s not available close by. With this app, you can also add the wine to your Wishlist or Virtual Cellar; purchase the wine online through the Snooth retail network; read expert and user reviews and post your own; and browse for similar wines by winery, region, or varietal. Cost: $4.99. Note: A free version of this app is available as well, but the image recognition capability is not available and ads are displayed.

For Android users, check out Swirl Pro. It has a lookup function that accesses the Snooth database for similar details, but you have to type in the name of a wine rather than taking a picture. Cost: $2.99. Note: There’s also a free version that allows all of the browsing and tagging, but only lets you add a couple of wines.

Wine Events (localwineevents.com) is a simple, yet useful iPhone and Android app to have if you like to attend tastings, festivals, auctions and other wine-related activities and want to stay current on events in your area. It offers a plethora of choices for wine lovers, plus it gives you the option of posting the event to Facebook. Cost: Free

Cor.kz (http://cor.kz) is an all-purpose iPhone app touted as “like having a sommelier in your pocket.” Its most popular feature is its CellarTracker, which lets you access information on over one million wines. Use the search tab to find wines by name, region or varietal. There’s even a barcode scanner that identifies your bottle and delivers thousands of user ratings, tasting notes and other general information about the wine. Keep track of wines you like or want to try by rating them and adding them to your virtual cellar. Cost: $1.99

Wine Ratings Guide (nirvino.com) is another app for iPhone and Android that’s likened to having a personal sommelier with you at all times. This highly rated, user-friendly app connects to a database of over a million wines to provide reviews, tasting notes, pairing suggestions and price points. It offers room to add your own ratings and the ability to view customized lists from other users. Cost: $3.99

A few other apps worth checking out are Corkbin (corkbin.com), the Approach Guides Wine App (agwine.com), Drync Wine Pro (drync.com), and Vivino (vivino.com).

Have another favorite wine-related app? I’d love for you to share your recommendations with me.

Books and bottles for holiday giving

http://www.virtualme.bizSearching for the perfect last-minute gift for the wine lover on your list?  Below are some suggested books from Catherine Rabb, a senior instructor at Johnson & Wales University.  Being a wine lover myself, these books about the pleasure of wine certainly caught my eye.  Paired with a nice bottle, I’m sure any of these would be a welcome to a oenophile’s library (including mine).

Reading Between the Wines, by Terry Theise (University of California Press, $24.95).

Acclaimed importer and champion of lovely artisan Champagnes and wines from Germany and Austria, Thiese writes lyrically about tasting and appreciating wine. This is a small and intensely personal book, almost a love letter to wine. His thoughtful takes on wine tasting and wine scores are worth the price of the book. Although she’s read it several times, Rabb says it still sits on her nightstand, and she finds herself reaching for it to reread favorite passages.

Matt Kramer on Wine, by Matt Kramer (Sterling Epicure, $19.95).

Kramer is a columnist for Wine Spectator and arguably one of the best wine writers around. This is a collection of columns and essays, so you can read just a page or two at a sitting. His writing is smart, engaging, and often laugh-out-loud funny. He takes on a range of topics, including wine judging, wine scoring and cult Cabernets. Kramer’s down-to-earth take and his ability to puncture stereotypes make this a must-read.

Liquid Memory, by Jonathan Nossiter (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26).

Nossiter is the acclaimed filmmaker who produced “Mondavino,” a terrific documentary about the business of wine. This book is part memoir, part soulful exploration, and a delight to read.

Wine Myths and Reality, by Benjamin Lewin (Wine Appreciation Guild, $50).

On the surface, this looks like a thick textbook. But Lewin has taken a creative approach to the nuts and bolts of grape-growing and winemaking. Yes, it’s comprehensive, and a detailed overview of wine facts and figures, but Lewin poses questions throughout (example: Does terroir matter?) and discusses them in a straightforward, easy-to-understand style. Rabb became a Lewin fan after his previous book, What Price Bordeaux? Save this for a real wine geek. It may be a little in-depth for the casual wine drinker.

Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine, by Mark Oldman (W.W. Norton, $19.95).

If you are stuck in a wine rut, reach for this — it’s just plain fun. Packed with suggestions for interesting wines outside the usual suspects, good food pairings and down-to-earth information, it’s laid out in a format that’s easy to explore. Oldman’s previous book, Oldman’s Guide to Outsmarting Wine, is just as unpretentious and informative. Bundle both for a great gift.

Windows On the World Complete Wine Course, 25th Anniversary Edition, by Kevin Zraly (Sterling, $27.95).

Students in Rabb’s wine classes have told her that this is their essential go-to reference, not only for the details about wine but for the spirit of it. Rabb says she can’t disclose how many editions she owns — friends might feel she needs an intervention. But she says it’s a must-have for any wine lover.

What are your favorite wine books to add to this list?