There are dozens — if not hundreds — of wine-related apps for smartphones, most of which cost a few dollars. Still, there are a few free apps for oenophiles and wine amateurs alike, some of which are well worth keeping on your phone. Here's a look at seven of the most popular free wine apps.
Hello Vino (iPhone, Android) — If you want some advice on pairing wine with food (and vice versa), this is a helpful app. After I typed in "Thai red curry," Hello Vino recommended a Riesling and offered a definition of the wine and a few bottle suggestions. You can use it in reverse, too; starting with a citrusy sauvignon blanc leads you to suggested food pairings, which are pretty diverse (apple-walnut salad, lime chicken, falafel, mahi-mahi). It's probably a bit simplistic for even an intermediate wine enthusiast, but for a beginner, this could be useful — particularly if you like to cook.
Natalie MacLean Wine Picks & Pairings (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry) — This just-released app from the James Beard Award-winning wine journalist has many of the same features as other apps, with some great additions, including an archive of MacLean's articles, extended wine reviews and recipes. It's searchable in any number of ways, though navigation is convoluted and not terribly intuitive. The killer feature of this app, though, is a barcode scanner, which in theory should take you to a page with lots of information about a bottle of wine, but the scanner wasn't working and kept crashing the app. With a redesign and a reliable scanner, this could be tops in its field.
Snooth Wine (iPhone) — This is a guide to nearby wine shops and a way to search their cellars — at least in theory. A search from Mid-City revealed the three closest wine shops were Martin Wine Cellar on Magazine Street, and then two in Mandeville. A search for a white wine in the $12-$15 price range revealed the three closest places to buy it were in metro New Orleans, Mandeville and ... Houston. The paid version allows you to snap a photo of a wine label to search for information. As a guide to local wine shops, this is anything but "snooth" — in fact, it fails at every level. Skip it.
Vintage Chart (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry) — An official app from Wine Spectator, this is like having a Cliffs Notes version of the magazine in your pocket. You start with a list of countries, then drill down to wine-growing region and varietal — whereupon you're presented with a list of vintages, the Wine Spectator rating and brief notes on each vintage. It doesn't provide a grade for individual producers or varietals, though. Online reviews from wine connoisseurs give the app mostly approving marks, with one saying it provides "amusing rudimentary data."
Wine.com (iPhone) — This is the pocket app for the popular website, which is like Amazon.com for wine enthusiasts. You can search and sort by many different parameters and read extended reviews on each bottle, complete with a Wine Spectator rating. If a wine sounds intriguing, you can save it in "My Wines," or put it on a wishlist. The laws governing wine shipments vary from state to state, but Louisiana is generally fine (not so, Mississippi or Alabama). Still, there's little here you can't do more easily on the more comprehensive website.
Wine Notes (iPhone) — This is a personal wine diary to keep track of the bottles you've tried. You enter the producer, the varietal, the country of origin, the vintage and your own personal rating (1-10). It's sortable by rating or vintage, and each wine can be labeled with the flavors you taste (from "citrus" and "earth" to "tar" and "bacon"). You can even snap a picture of the bottle's label. If you can't remember the wines you've enjoyed, this is a great, simple way to keep track of them. The only thing that would make it better would be a desktop backup and a way to keep track of good prices.
Wine Quick Picks (iPhone) — Just what it says, and not much more. You get five "Top" lists ("Top 100 Widely Available Store Wines Under $35," "Top 25 Widely Available Dinner Party Wines Under $30"), and each wine in the category comes with a star rating, a suggested retail price, a description of flavors and suggested pairings. You can't do any of your own sorting by country, vintage or varietal without upgrading to a paid version. Without those abilities, this isn't an app worth keeping.