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The 3 Best Free Wine Apps for Keeping Your Tasting Notes in 2021

Here are the 3 Top Wine Apps for Tasting Notes in 2021.

Wine apps are designed to make it easier for the consumer to purchase wine. Wine that they know they’ll love. But apps have their specific niches. Here SommWine shares what each app specializes in and the pros and cons of each one.

 

The 3 Best Free Wine Apps for Tasting Notes in 2021

1. Vivino

Cost: Both iphone and Android, free

Vivino in a nutshell

    • wines rated out of 5 points. Decimals used so numbers such as 3.7 or 4.2 seen frequently.
    • has social component where you can follow other users’ tasting notes
    • most popular app out there with 50 million users
    • best interface design for beauty and usability making it the best free wine app for tasting notes overall

Best Free Wine App Overall!

Pros

  • free
  • you can follow and read other people’s tasting notes
  • image detection- scans with a photo and because there’s such a huge database, recognition features work really well.
  • best interface and design – by far
  • even photos of wine bottles are all professional shots
  • previous ‘con’ from the app when it first came out is now gone (see below)
  • you can order wine straight through the app
  • now has educated staff writing tasting notes as well
  • access to reads about wineries, their heritage and regions
  • this app almost does everything making it one of the best apps for tasting notes

Cons

  • not able to keep track of your cellar
  • food pairing section is brutally simplistic and not useful at all
  • can’t ‘hide’ your posts and keep them private. Anyone who wants to follow you can see your wine notes
  • doesn’t do a great job recommending new wines; it only recommends other producers of the same wines you’ve been drinking

Vivino has a lot going for it: beautiful design, great wine entries...

Vivino was the first app to have photo recognition; you can take a photo of a label and Vivino will scan it and show you tasting notes of that wine.

The main thing I didn’t like about Vivino when it first came out, was that it wasn’t for wine professionals. All of the reviews were from regular folks. Therefore, I couldn’t ‘understand’ the wine from the notes because they were from untrained palates and used descriptions that didn’t fit what I was taught. This rendered the tasting notes useless for me.

However, in Vivino’s defense, that’s exactly what the app was designed for. It was designed to help normal people write tasting notes of wines they opened without having to manually enter what the wine was.

 

Vivino: Most Improved App


Today, Vivino wins the award for ‘most improved’ app over the years. It has vastly developed their platform and the interface is beautiful. I mean, it’s super foofy.

In addition, they’ve stayed true to their niche of being an everyman’s app while becoming more inclusive to wine folk like me.

By that I mean, wine descriptions now make sense to trained palates.

They’ve hired their own editors to write entries that give you brief summaries of the wine, region and producer.

No geeky rs (short for residual sugar) in g/l (short for grams per litre) or tartaric acid amounts here! Vivino uses simple language that’s easy to understand and the app is efficacious meaning all consumers should understand what style of wine is in the bottle.

Vivino's visual way to describe a wine...

For in order for wine description to be useful, it must contain both 1) the aromas and flavours and 2) the structure of the wine (whether the wine is dry, off-dry or sweet, the acidity level, tannin level, body, and alcohol level of the wine).

To this point, Vivino represents wine structure in a visually splendid way. See how they’ve presented the structure of the wine (pictured on the right).

You can also see collections of thousands of reviews on each wine that are camped together in ‘winespeak’ groupings. This is why Vivino is one of the best free apps out there for tasting notes.

So under the wine you’ll see, ‘What people talk about‘. Here they have ‘1478 mentions of blackberry, plum, dark fruit’, ‘1000 mentions of oak, vanilla and tobacco’ and ‘498 mentions of leather, smoke and earthy’ to describe the wine.

In fact, the only graph I don’t find useful is the ‘This wine is in the top ___% of wines in the world.’ I don’t know what the point of that is considering that for me, the purpose of exploring wine is to adventure to unknown regions or varieties and not confirm with me that I’m drinking the same wines as everybody else. That’s just me being picky.

Vivino Images

Search for wines by category
Search by grape variety
Vivino will recommend wines based on the styles you've entered. Although, it won't introduce you to new styles.

Cons:

The main problem with Vivino is it’s only useful for wines that you are opening right now. Namely, you can’t keep track of what’s in your cellar and when to drink it. That job is for Cellar Tracker (see the last entry below).

Furthermore, the food pairing section is brutally simplistic. If you want wines to go with beef, here they are. If you want wines to go with chicken, here they are. There’s no mention of different sauces, rubs, marinades or what the cooking method used is.

As a certified wine pairing guru, I know that it’s the sauces and cooking method that determines the wine pairing over what protein it is.

 

[Want to learn How to Become a Food Pairing Guru in 6 Easy Steps? Click here.]

[Here are the 5 Best Ways to Order Wine Online.]

There’s also no explanation about why the pairing works.

Click on the chicken image and boom! here’s the 100’s of wines that goes with chicken!

Ultimately, we wish wine and food pairing were that simple.

But this is why only the best restaurants can attract the people with the training to do food and wine pairings properly. It’s a complex topic and requires experience.

However, given how far Vivino has come since I first rated the app, I feel it’s likely that the app will develop the food and wine pairing section as time goes on.

Delectable

Cost: Both iphone and Android, free

Delectable in a nutshell

    • wines rated out of 10 points. Decimals used so numbers such as 9.6 or 8.8 seen frequently.
    • has a social component where you can follow what others are drinking
    • blogs in the ‘Featured’ section are the best. This makes Delectable one of the best free apps for tasting notes
    • tasting notes in the ‘Featured’ section under ‘Tasting Notes: Weekly Roundup’ are the most useful
    • interface is easy to use but not as beautiful as Vivino’s

Best Wine Writing!

Pros

  • it’s free
  • it’s a fairly simple design which makes it easy to use; you can find what you are looking for easily
  • you can order wine through the site which is what pays for the app
  • the ‘Featured’ section has some really good reads both by paid writers (see more below) and the ‘Tasting Notes: Weekly Roundup’ where staff pick their favourite consumer tasting notes and photos from the week
  • users have access to a couple of weekly posts from wine magazine Vinous (although the link doesn’t always work)

Cons

  • not able to keep track of your cellar
  • where the app used to feature incredible tasting notes from experienced high profile wine tasters, now professional tasting notes are lacking
  • even Antonio Galloni’s (Vinous) tasting notes are terrible
  • can’t ‘hide’ your posts and keep them private so that anyone who wants to follow you can see your wine notes
  • Delectable came onto the scene ahead of Vivino but is now lagging

Users of Delectable could follow famous sommeliers which made it the best app for tasting notes...

When Delectable first came onto the scene, I was ecstatic! Finally a wine app with wine reviews from people who know wine and tasting note structure. The fact that users could follow the tasting notes written by famous sommeliers made it one of the best apps for tasting notes. It was designed for the intermediate to experienced wine lover in mind while also catering to new winos.

And that was delectable’s ‘hook’; they hired famous somms to write their tasting notes. One of their first hires was Rajat Parr, co-author of ‘The Secrets of the Sommelier’ and one of my heros.

 

The 'hook'...

Parr romanced 1000’s of budding sommeliers into streamlining their careers towards fine wine purchases. The ‘Secrets of the Sommelier’ book is as relevant today as it was when it first came out.
 
When Delectable hit the scene, the app promoted brilliant long form tasting notes from Parr and others, and won my heart over.
 
Unfortunately, it seems the app has not lived up to my original hype.
 
Today, the most active famous wino is Cathy Corison, winemaker from ‘Corison Winery’ in Napa.  And although I admire Cathy and her wines, she downright sucks at writing useful tasting notes. (To be fair, Jancis Robinson MW, esteemed wine author and influencer, also can’t write a tasting note. But I digress.)

The other somms and experienced wine tasters haven’t posted in years.
 
One upgrade is that the app is now connected to Vinous wine magazine so you can follow Antonio Galloni, who also posts tasting notes frequently. But, Antonio’s tasting posts are terrible too!
 

Lawsuit between Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Antonio Galloni (Vinous)...

For those unfamiliar, Antonio Galloni started out as Robert Parker’s protégé working closely with him at The Wine Advocate. There was a falling out and Antonio left to begin his own venture starting, Vinous. You can read about the rift and subsequent lawsuit, here.
 
A main bone of contention in the lawsuit was that (allegedly) Antonio was contracted by The Wine Advocate to do a series on Sonoma wines. He then completed the trip to Sonoma but never handed in the reviews. The lawsuit alleges that Antonio then tried to poach subscribers from The Wine Advocate by posting his reviews about Sonoma on his new site and offering Wine Advocate subscribers a ‘free’ viewing of those notes (although he was paid by The Wine Advocate for that work).
 

Anyhoo, below are two tasting notes Antonio Galloni has written recently on Delectable. My question is, does Antonio write tasting notes that poorly for his own magazine and site? Let me give you the two most recent examples…
 

Example of Antonio Galloni's (useless) tasting notes on Delectable...

Harlan Napa Valley Proprietary Red Blend 1993

“Just gorgeous. Totally in the zone now. Tasted as part of our Napa Valley Sessions program of virtual tastings. Check it out on the Vinous events page. “

Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Montefico Barbaresco Nebbiolo 2014

“Just stunning. One of the very best wines from our Barbaresco seminar yesterday. Glad I own it.”

Do you have any idea how those wines taste based on those notes? I don’t.

The only thing you can understand is that Antonio enjoyed the wines. In fact, in the first tasting note, it looks like he’s trying to poach Delectable users over to Vinous.

If anyone at Delectable reads this, it’s time to reign dear Antonio in. He’s taking your money and ripping you off!!

Somm Interesting Takeaways from Delectable

My favourite part of the Delectable app is the ‘Featured’ section. This is the blog section of the app and what makes it one of the best apps for tasting notes.

The ‘Cocktail Series’ is refreshing (pun intended). These are quick reads about the history of a cocktail and its ingredients.

The best reads on the ‘Featured’ section of the Delectable app are from a podcaster named Ellen Clifford who makes (writing) appearances.

These posts are a touch raw and I like it that way.

Ellen’s posts sound as if she’s talking off the top of her head. She’ll take you on these long journeys, about Old World vs New World Sémillons, for example, and they’re fantastic! It’s as if you’re having a back and forth with one of your best buddies.

That’s not to say there’s no structure to Ellen’s prose, there is.

And her tasting notes are pure poetry; she just teases you! By the end of a tasting note, you not only know how the wine feels in your mouth, you’ll have a full-body experience.

Here’s an example of two of Ellen’s tasting notes…

2019 L'Ecole 41 Semillon

“Pears and white pepper florals on the nose egads! And lemons. Silky bordering on waxy body but with that characteristic acid zing to give it a pulse. True tis 88% Semillon and 12% Sauvignon Blanc. It is not the most complex. It is interesting. It truly has the body of a ripe pear and the zip of an underripe one. It is funny since I don’t normally like pears, but this is a pear I can entertain. It also feels warming and comforting, maybe that is the cloak of lanolin.

As I drink it, I picture myself as some sort of…Scotch or Norse goddess running naked through the brush but not totally naked beause I am cloaked in a lambskin and crowned with a white flowery tiara and munching an underripe pear as I zip through the woods along a river like lightning.”

2014 Tyrell's HVD Semillon

“Honeyed pears and honeydew and all that. The nose explodes like a debutante ready to flee the nest. This wine is ready to dance, but it can also be in a deep convo in the corner, party be damned. We are gonna hang and talk.”

Ellen’s tasting notes are F. U. N. fun! As a consequence, it’s worth downloading Delectable just for the reads!

Even Antonio’s tasting notes are good in the Featured section. Of course, these are his notes that are copied straight from his Vinous magazine.

So, it’s good to know the guy can actually write a tasting note!

Although the 'Featured' Section isn't pretty, the content is great.
Photos of wine bottles on Delectable are all from users

Cellar Tracker

Cost: Both iphone and Android, free

Cellar Tracker in a nutshell

    • the only free app out there that keeps track of the bottles in your cellar and helps you identify their drinking windows which is why it is one of the best apps for writing tasting notes
    • has a social component that is more developed than the other 2 apps
    • links you to many online wine magazines
    • option for you to link your other paid subscriptions to the app

Best (and only app) for Keeping Track of the Bottles in Your Wine Cellar!
Best app for viewing your stored wines (it creates a restaurant wine list from your wines)

Pros

  • it’s free
  • the only app that allows you to keep track of the bottles you drink from your cellar making this one of the best apps for writing tasting notes
  • app can be viewed from your computer or your phone; the computer is useful for typing in your wines when they’re not recognized by the camera shot
  • ability to view the recommended drinking windows of each wine
  • lets you view what’s in your cellar as a restaurant wine list
  • you can connect the app to any other magazines you subscribe to to see the scores given to the wines in your cellar (the Purple Pages, Decanter, Vinous, and many others)
  • other magazines you can connect to for free. Some are already connected, others you just have to register for access 

Cons

  •  the worst interface design possible
  • helps you drink a case of wine spaced out through its drinking window which should be a pro, but the system is difficult to understand.

More on Cellar Tracker...

My review here risks sounding negative as this app frustrates me due to its ancient design. The fonts, the look, is all awkward. It reminds me of the binary computers where you had to program the video games in them before getting to play them.

OK, that’s not fair because it’s not that bad. You can check out the screen shots left and below to form your own opinion on its design.

However, this is the app that I use the most!

That’s because Cellar Tracker keeps track of wines in my cellar that are tucked away into boxes. I would have no idea where they were there if I hadn’t taken the time to input them here (work is still ongoing).

Another feature that makes Cellar Tracker one of the best free apps for writing tasting notes is that it allows you to view your wines as a restaurant wine list!

The wine menu begins with your Sparkling wines, then moves through your whites, then rosés and finally reds and then your dessert wines.

You also get to choose the ‘style’ of the menu. For example, if you want to select an old world wine, you can view your cellar under ‘Restaurant Style Wine List’ and select ‘Traditional (old-world appellations as headings).

You can also view them as ‘Grouped by Varietals’ or by ‘Grouped by location and bin’ and many others.

 

Images of your wines placed in a Restaurant Wine List in Cellar Tracker...

Viewing your cellar as a restaurant wine list is useful in Cellar Tracker although not pretty.
You must zoom in to see the wines.
The 'Restaurant Wine List' also has Cellar Tracker (CT) wine ratings and the proposed drinking windows of each wine

Come on Cellar Tracker, step it up!

I remember years ago when I first rated this app, founder Eric LeVine made a public plea asking for users to grant him some patience in getting the photo recognition part of the app going. His request was framed this way, “It’s just me working out of my basement and I need time.”

LeVine did complete the photo recognition part of the app. Therfore, you can now take photos of wine labels and the app instantly recognizes them just as the Vivino and the Delectable app does.

But, just a word of advice to Eric LeVine, the competition is not sleeping!

What Vivino has done since my last review compared to the slow advancements in the Cellar Tracker app is like relating the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race to the 100-Meter dash. If you don’t improve the design and interface of your app (and yes, that means you will have to pay people to do this), Cellar Tracker will go the way of the dodo.

How difficult is it to just to fix the fonts, their size and colours? (See the images above in ‘The Restaurant List)

Most advanced social component is in Cellar Tracker. Well, almost...

 

Yet, Cellar Tracker has the most advanced social component out there. You can ‘friend’ someone and they must accept you before they can see your notes.

On the other hand, Cellar Tracker also has a ‘fan’ option. Here users can choose to follow your tasting notes without your approval (and this is just like Vivino and Delectable).

For me, this totally defeats the purpose of choosing ‘friends’ where you have control over who sees your tasting notes. I don’t know why they would have both.

In addition, many people I spoke with don’t like the idea of strangers seeing what they post (sharing wine opinions is such a anxiety-producing topic).

What do you think? (Leave your comments below)

A great feature with Cellar Tracker is the 'My subscriptions' section. See image on right.
These are how the various magazine subscriptions appear on your Cellar Tracker app (and some are included)

Cellar Tracker includes automatic subscriptions to many online wine magazines...

One great aspect of the app is that Cellar Tracker offers you links to many online wine magazines. This is especially useful with searching for wines from regions mostly known to residents within. Therefore, links to ‘Sean Sullivan’s Washington Wine Report’, or the ‘New York Cork Report’ offer updates on wines in those regions.

So far, my favourite online wine publication through Cellar Tracker is the ‘Sommelier Journal‘. Check it out for great news on changes in the wine industry.

And for those true wine nerds who have subscriptions to the top journals in the world such as Decanter, the Purple Pages, Vinous, Wine Companion, Inside Burgundy and the like, you can link your paid subscriptions to Cellar Tracker. The app will then display tasting scores from these publications to wines in your cellar. (Although, I have not tested this part of the app out).

Conclusion...

Perhaps it’s unfair that I place Cellar Tracker in the third and final place in this post as it is the only one that I use. I made profiles in Vivino and Delectable to just rate the apps (which I did for a review I wrote years ago and personally, I haven’t needed their services since).

Yet, I am not ‘everyman’ in wine. I feel that the fast majority of my readers will prefer Vivino because it’s just so beautiful and easy to access! Vivino is trying to do everything and besides the food pairing section and the inability to track wines in your cellar, Vivino pretty much does do it all.

On the other hand Delectable, which used to be my favourite app because it offered the most useful tasting notes from professionals, has lost that main benefit. Most good wine tasters haven’t entered any new notes in the last 2 years which could be an indication that poor Delectable is on its way out. Still, if you like a good wine read, I encourage you to check out Ellen Clifford’s tasting notes and articles in the ‘Featured’ section.

Finally, Cellar Tracker hasn’t exploded the way that Vivino has but it’s not sinking yet either. Key to this app is its ability to keep track of your wines and organize them to view as a restaurant wine list (or by bin, or variety). And although its interface is ancient, it offers links to the largest free library of online wine publications as well as the ability to link your other wine subscriptions to it.

What wine apps do you use for keeping track of your tasting notes?

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10 Comments

  1. I was just expecting a listicle style rundown but you’ve actually done a great analysis here. Well done!

    I would just mention that Vinous actually bought Delectable awhile back, thus the tie ins. As to why it’s not actually better on that front then is anyone’s guess.

    • Thanks for taking the time to write a response here, Miquel. It’s very much appreciated!

      And excellent information you have provided me. I did NOT know that Vinous bought Delectable.

  2. Great article Joanne, putting everything out there with regard to the three apps. I do “use” all three, although Delectable is probably an afterthought most times.

    Like you, I use Cellar Tracker to keep a record of my wines, where they are, and what they are. Although the appearance may be somewhat dated, I find it quite reassuring that it’s the same now, as it was when I signed up.

    I do like Vivino, especially when in a store or when somebody recommends a particular wine, but as you say, its not a great record keeper for the cellar.

    As for tasting notes, being a novice myself and to be fair, only really writing notes for myself, much as I like the thought others might read them and be encouraged to try a wine, I find the CT notes more informative than Vivino, maybe it’s the members on the site.

    Love the comprehensive review of all three and look forward, with slight trepidation, to Eric’s improvements down the line.

    • I appreciate your well-thought out comments, Liam. It’s good for me to know that not everyone shares my view about Cellar Tracker’s design.

      Where do you find the time to use all 3?!

      • Well, when I say use… I’m being generous. I have accounts with all three, with CT being kept up to date, and Vivino used when I’m out shopping. Delectable, falls to the end, and might get a shot on a Friday night while I’m sipping my #FridayWineClub selection in front of a movie.

    • Good point about the tasting notes in Cellar Tracker being more informative than those in Vivino. I totally agree!

  3. Thank you so much for a great article. I’ve been using Vivino for a few months and Cellar Tracker for a few weeks to see which I prefer. I think you’ve accurately described the pros and cons of each and this was a helpful article.

    • Thanks Marjorie for taking the time! Since I first shared the article, Eric LeVine (CEO of Cellar Tracker) reached out to say that changes are on the horizon for Cellar Tracker. I’ll be sure to update this post.

      Joanne

  4. Great detailed article !

    • Heartfelt THANK YOU, Patrick!


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