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OPINION | BOTTLE SHOTS: Boggled by wine choice? There's an app for that

by Seth Eli Barlow | February 17, 2021 at 1:57 a.m.

I fit the millennial stereotype in a lot of ways, but perhaps the most obvious (or at least the most socially awkward) is my complete inability to make small talk with strangers. The only time my social kryptonite crumbles is when I see someone standing at a grocery store wine rack poised to make a poor decision. Does anyone actually want a random stranger to approach them in public and tell them they're buying the wrong wine? No. Do I still have an urge to tell them that the wine two bottles to the left is $3 cheaper and tastes much better? Yes.

What's the best way to make an informed game-time wine decision? Assuming you don't have a sommelier staring over your shoulder trying to use his nonexistent Jedi powers to guide your hand to the right bottle, you might try one of the many wine-oriented smartphone apps. The choices are myriad, but here are the ones I think are most useful:

VIVINO

Though not my favorite, this is by far one of the most widely used wine apps. It allows you to scan a bottle's label and find the reviews of others who've recently had it. It will generally steer you in the right-ish direction, but I find that mass, aggregated scores like this often lack nuance, which is troubling when you're rating one of the most nuanced subjects on Earth.

DELECTABLE

This app is essentially the same as Vivino, except for one key difference. Each wine is given two scores: one is an average of all user reviews, while the second is a so-called "pro rating," which is an average rating based on the reviews of sommeliers and other wine-industry professionals using the app. Wine pros have to submit their credentials for their rating to be counted, and their profiles are marked with a red check. You can find me and my red check on Delectable by merely searching my name.

CELLARTRACKER

Easily my favorite wine app, this is the one I go to when I'm facing a shelf of unfamiliar bottles. Primarily, this app is for organizing a collector's personal cellar. The wine reviews are secondary, but I find them to be extremely helpful. I think those whose cellars contain hundreds or even thousands of bottles know and care enough to leave detailed and unbiased reviews about even the rarest wines. Also, it's just fun to snoop through others' private wine collections. You can find me on CellarTracker by searching for "sethebarlow."

Apps not your thing? That's OK — you can always email your wine questions to [email protected] or send me an Instagram message at @sethebarlow.

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