Why you should care
Because it’s been a long, hard Dry January.
Each year, many take on Dry January — or “Dryuary” — and give up alcohol for the entire month. In 2018, about 4 million people participated in the challenge, launched in 2012 by Alcohol Change U.K. So for many, February marks the new year’s return to their wine-loving ways. But getting back on the imbibing wagon after a month of self-proclaimed abstinence might prove daunting — where to start?
There are several wine apps that can make the transition a little smoother. “[Wine] apps are one of the most exciting developments for consumers,” says David Allen, a master of wine and the wine director at Wine-Searcher. “So much of the information that makes wine buying so complicated can be at a consumer’s fingertips.”
Here are five of the best — and free — boozy apps to get your new drinking year started.
Powered by the Experts. The leading wine retail database since 1999, Wine-Searcher’s mobile version features the same benefits as the desktop platform along with a GPS-based store locator and a personal wine journal. Wine pricing and tasting notes on more than 500,000 different wines are sourced and continuously updated by a team of experts formally educated by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. With a straightforward interface, this data-driven app serves up cutting-edge information to guide you to your wine.
For the Social Drinker. Unless you’ve been living under a rock (don’t blame you — 2018 was terrifying), you’ve probably witnessed someone checking wine stats on Vivino. This is how it works: Snap a photo of a wine label and you’ve got access to its rating and reviews submitted by other tasters. You can also check out the wine retail price so you know how much the restaurant is marking up your bottle. With more than 34 million users, Vivino is the world’s largest social community for wine, and you can even purchase your favorite wines through the app. Beware: With crowd-sourced reviews, your intel is at the mercy of various levels of wine experience. But there are critic and editor reviews to help supplement descriptions with additional wine expertise.
The BYOB Intel. Ever show up at a restaurant with a bottle you’re excited to open only to be slapped with a corkage fee that nearly tops what you paid for it? CorkageFee finds BYOB-friendly restaurants based on your location and displays their corkage fees. There’s also a GPS locator for wineries and wine retailers near you for bottle-buying options before you go to the restaurant. Use the app to research establishments — the directory varies in the style and quality of restaurants, many of which are also reviewed — so you can find the most suitable place to take your beloved vintage.
The Personal Shopper. Too cold outside or not enough time to drive to the store to pick up that last-minute wine for dinner? “Drizly solves a problem,” says Scott Braun, the app’s chief marketing officer: The app delivers the booze you choose to your door within an hour. Partnered with retailers across the country, the app offers the ability to compare pricing, store ratings and delivery ETA. That said, the selection and pricing of booze will depend on retailers in your area, so your favorite whiskey might not be available.
The Pocket Somm. Planning a night out on the town? Wine Picker will display a directory of nearby restaurants that match what you want to eat with the perfect vino, based on the establishment’s wine list. Select a restaurant and enter your budget along with up to four dish preferences, and the app will suggest the five best wines from the menu, based on wine ratings. If the restaurant isn’t on the app, you can input what type of dish or wine you’re interested in and Wine Picker will give you a pairing recommendation (in general terms, not specific producers). A note to U.S. users: This is primarily a U.K.-based app, but it has a presence in major U.S. cities and is growing.
While the world of wine is now at your fingertips, it’s important to remember that not everything can be automated. By solely relying on technology to decide what to drink, you might be missing out, explains Jeremy Shanker, head sommelier of Michelin-starred Michael Mina in San Francisco. “You could find something even better by simply having a conversation with the sommelier,” he says. “That’s the beauty of wine — there’s always something you can learn.”