Imbibing liquid expressions of vineyards around the world is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Yet facing that wall of wine when wanting to choose a good bottle is simply staggering.
A while back I joined the Cotignac Wine Club in an attempt to decipher labels, but the more I learn, the more complicated it becomes! How deep does this rabbit hole go? Watching wine-documentaries like SOMM, I’m amazed at how much knowledge sommeliers and oenologists have and admit feeling a little smug when even they get it wrong.
My scribbled notes after a wineclub evening left me with little recollection of the wines, or their labels. So for a while I focussed instead on identifying flavours and aromas. Then I was delighted to discover Vivino. It has changed the way I enjoy these evenings.
The trickiest part of using Vivino is trying to pry the bottle away from other people long enough to take a good photo. I found my phone’s camera works better in the low evening light than Vivino’s camera functionality, so I take a picture first, and upload it from my gallery. In better light, taking the picture using the app is super easy.
Most wines are identified within Vivino’s database, and you’re rewarded with instant information about the wine, region, average price paid per bottle, as well as other people’s tasting notes and ratings. If a label hasn’t been recognised, you can search for the wine or ask Vivino to manually match it for you. Having experts like this on hand feels very cool – like you’re part of a much larger wine club – well actually, you are.
Wine aficionados also enjoy the wine list scanner to help them pick the best wine during an evening out, based on the opinion of more than 20 million wine lovers around the world. Some folk choose their wines based on ratings by professional wine critics like Robert Parker and Wine Spectator – here’s an easy chart to see how Vivino compares (read the full explanation of Vivino ratings).
For newbies like me, here are some other useful tips and tricks.
How wine tastes for us is totally affected by how we’re feeling (physically and mentally), whether we’ve had something to eat or not, the people we’re with, our expectations, and so on. Not wanting to appear a complete ‘ignoramus’ I started off using personal notes to remind myself of the wine and event. I have since built up enough courage to start adding public ratings. Yikes.
Secondly, it’s helpful to know how to improve your wine tasting experience. Watch this great video by Madeline of Wine Folly for an easy to understand way to taste wine.
You can also check out these articles:
- How to taste wine and develop your palate – Wine Folly
- How to write excellent wine tasting notes – Wine Folly
- Wine Words 101 – what common descriptors mean (part 1) – Vivino
- Wine Words 101 – what common descriptors mean (part 2) – Vivino
The other biggie for me was which rating do you give a wine? How do you compare a bold red wine with a delicate Provence rosé? As Stephen says, ‘ratings are always very subjective’. Wanting a guideline to work with, I was inspired by Wine Spectator’s 100-point scale and have adapted it for Vivino:
5* Classic: a great wine
4* Outstanding: a wine of superior character and style
3* Very good: a wine with special qualities
2* Mediocre: a drinkable wine that may have minor flaws
1* Poor: not recommended or has major flaws
Another fun aspect is connecting with users who know more about wine than I do, adding comments and following favourite wine industry leaders. The app is free, available in both Android and Apple versions, and there is also a Premium service for those who are ready or want more from their wine experience.
If you didn’t know about Vivino, I hope this opens up your wine world, like it did mine. If you’re concerned about the IT tech stuff, their support is very good. It’s a super fun way of sharing with the people who inhabit the wonderful world of wine. Here’s to lots of learning together, santé!
If you’ve joined up, don’t forget to rate your favourite Provence rosé and say hi to Stephen?