Wine lovers are notorious note-takers. When a wine excites us, we want to record it before the next glass or a new conversation takes us to another thought. What we do with those notes depends on our organizational skills. Mine lie in a jumble of Moleskine notebooks filled over two decades, waiting for me to flip through them and remember a dinner, a tasting or an article idea hastily scribbled down so it wouldn't be forgotten.
Modern technology to the rescue. Two smartphone apps, Vivino and Delectable, are going head-to-head in competition for the wine geek market. Both use a photo of a wine bottle label (either taken through the app or imported from your photos) to identify the wine and enter the relevant information for you. You can rate the wines -- up to five stars on Vivino, or with a sliding scale of smiley faces on Delectable.
They also incorporate some of the better features of social media, allowing you to follow others (as on Twitter) and to "like" or comment on their recommendations (as on Facebook). Both apps allow cross-posting to Facebook and Twitter. If you see a wine in a store, you can look up reviews on either app to see what other tech-savvy wine lovers thought of it.
Until recently, Vivino was decidedly faster and more accurate than Delectable in recognizing wines I photographed. Delectable published an update in June that dramatically increased its speed, though not necessarily its accuracy. Once you snap the photo, Delectable gives you an opportunity to rate the wine and tap in a tasting note, but only after you do that does it give you the identification. If it's wrong -- say, listing the Beringer merlot instead of the cabernet sauvignon -- there is no way to correct it. You've just wasted time entering your tasting note. When you tap on "Learn More About This Wine" to see whether the identification is correct, you cannot get back into your review. The new update of Delectable is missing a lot of older vintages (and by older, I mean 2011) of several wines I tried to enter.
Vivino presents the information up front, and if it has the wine or vintage wrong it gives you a scroll-down list of alternatives. Advantage to Vivino for label recognition. The app is available for Android and Windows Phone, while Delectable is for iPhone only.
Delectable offers features that Vivino doesn't. If you like a wine in a restaurant or at a party and just have to have it for your own cellar, you can buy it immediately through the app and have it delivered to your home. Delectable even reduces shipping to a penny for a purchase of 12 bottles. (Disclosure: I have not tried buying wines through Delectable and can't comment on the service.)
Vivino, on the other hand, pretends to point you to places nearby where you can buy wine -- but not necessarily the wine you're looking at. Just any wine. It is not accurate. The Trader Joe's near my home does not sell wine, but Vivino thinks I can slake my thirst with 90 offerings there. A grocery store a mile away that has a large selection is listed as having two. And, no, our local McDonald's doesn't offer 15 wines.
Delectable is the favorite of the California wine crowd, so if you want to follow winemaker Steve Matthiasson or San Francisco Chronicle wine critic Jon Bonne, for example, you're more likely to find them on Delectable. For now, at least, I'll continue to experiment with Vivino as well.
As with all social media, there is a degree of one-upmanship at work here. People don't tend to post photos of Barefoot or Yellowtail. As useful as these apps are, they reinforce the wine geek's tendency to boast about the rare and expensive wine being enjoyed. We're scoring points as much as sharing, if not more so.
But it is convenient to scroll through my personal wine list in Delectable or Vivino to remember the name of that lovely chardonnay I drank a few weeks ago. Quicker than flipping through a Moleskine and deciphering my handwriting, that's for sure.