Odd Fridays – The Pocket Sommelier

Whether or not you’ve had the opportunity to study wine – to take a class, read The Wine Bible or even Wine for Dummies, there still may be times when you’d like a bit of help making the right wine selection to go with a particular meal. Conversely, having been gifted with a rather nice bottle of wine, you might want to go the extra mile in choosing the meal with which to enjoy it.

In so far as the old rules regarding red wines and white wines are concerned, the lines have become truly blurred. Jon wrote a rather informative post in September entitled Choosing a Wine for Your Meal – Peculiar Pairings and Common Couplings that will give you a basic understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish when pairing a wine with your meal. I don’t want to rehash that here, but it helps to have a grasp of some of those fundamental concepts – sweet wine with spicy food, light wines with delicate foods, bold wines with stronger savory foods, etc.

There are many resources available that will help you learn about wine, and we have a few on our book shelf. We have also waded through the ever-growing list of apps that are designed to aid you in your wine selections and help you keep track of what you’ve learned in your wine experiments and adventures. For this post, in keeping with the “fabulous freebies” theme, we have limited ourselves to the free ones.

During our search we discovered that over 50% of the apps were nothing more than advertisements for a specific store or vineyard. The expectation was that you would be lured in searching for a wine recommendation, not realizing that all of the wines being recommended were theirs. “Buy Bob’s Beaujolais” or “Try Toby’s Tempranillo”. You can understand our issue. This sort of in-your-face marketing is obnoxious, and a sure way to get me to “just say no”. It’s one thing if a vineyard wants to tell me up front that the app is about their wines and make it available for free. That is just fine. It’s the sneaky approach that puts my nose out of joint.

If you’re looking for help with wine pairings, there were actually a few good apps. We wanted apps that worked for both situations – choosing a wine for your meal and helping plan a meal around a specific bottle of wine. Our three favorites were WineMate (Android), Hello Vino (Andriod/iOS) and El Sommelier (Android). WineMate uses more descriptive terms, which makes it a little more fun; it really depends on what you’re looking for. It was important to us that we could use the apps and access the information while off-line, so that we could save our data, of course, and that they had a broad database of foods and wine varietals. The three we’ve mentioned fit our criteria. Several of the others had trouble loading, had limited information, or even obvious omissions. What wine pairing app would omit a grilled steak? Which reminds me…there were also vegetarian-specific sections in some of the apps.

The other wine apps that we found useful are designed to help you keep track of the contents of your wine cellar as well as your wine tasting opportunities. Wine Notes (Android) and Cellar Tracker (Android/iOS) are a couple of examples. You can make notes about your impressions of different wines or pairings that you’ve tried and share them with friends and other applications. It’s the perfect place to document that chardonnay and mushrooms can sometimes have a bouquet of mildew. An unpleasant experience that you won’t soon forget and won’t ever want to repeat. Although there are some scientists of my acquaintance who might argue that a spread sheet would work just as well, these apps are much more fun and easier to peruse while shopping for your next wine cache.

Head to your favorite app store and see what wine helpers suit your needs. You never know when you might be called upon to suggest the wine.

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