We are publishing six wine tasting mobile app reviews — Snooth, Cor.kz, My Wine Taster Lite, SecondGlass, Taste A Wine, and Wine Picks. These apps purport to help you with your wine cellar, wine tasting, and/or wine buying right from your mobile device. We thought these six were worth testing. Knowing our readers, we’re sure you’ll have additional suggestions!
“Taste A Wine” is Number One
Based on first impressions, our first choice is Taste A Wine (Compagnies des mille vins, http://www.taste-a-wine.com). This app is not for beginning wine fans, rather for intermediate and up enthusiasts. Also there is a sommelier version with extra features for $4.99. The free app does not include ” the ability to take a 2nd picture to capture the wine bottle back label, nor audio comments. But both versions do include one of the most complete lists of grape varietals we’ve ever seen (over 400 by my rough estimate).We tested the free version.
For us the “Express Note” and the “Amateur” length note of the free version is good enough. This express path starts with a you taking a photo of the label and moves you through some sensible and stream-lined data entry. With practice, a person can get this down to about 3 minutes, although the FAQ says a minutes. The longer “Classic Note” path allows you to rate the wine on about 400 variables and that path can take 20 minutes. This might be appropriate for a judge at a wine competition. We could not find the control to permit attaching an audio note. But we wanted more a “structured” data approach to our wine notes anyway.
Color, Aroma, Flavor, and Finish
Taste A Wine includes a relatively complete set of icons and data entry tools for recording a wine tasting experience when out and about. The sensory evaluation areas include color, aroma, flavor, and finish. In addition to the standard mobile GUI widgets (checkboxes, sliders, pinwheels), there are open-ended free-form note-taking boxes for each of the four sensory evaluation areas.
Power, Choice, but Complexity
This is where the complexity of 400 choices needs reduction. Most non-professional wine drinkers have perhaps half a dozen varietals that they favor. A user-generated filter would be nice so you don’t have to grope around to find “your” varietal. (There is an A to Z list on the right side of the screen so at least you can get to the first letter quickly. And if the wine is a zinfandel you’re in luck – there just aren’t that many grapes whose name begins with “z.”)
The translation to English is a major, easily correctable, flaw with Taste A Wine. There are several languages available (Italian, German, and Spanish in addition to French and English), but it quickly becomes apparent that the default language (French) is the native language of the developer. English translations range from amusing to nonexistent. Come on, folks, don’t be afraid – Google Translate could do a better job than this! In some places, no translation is available, including the entire list of aroma families on both the nose and palate evaluations. However, curiously, on the palate menu the full list of “Detailed aromas” is in English. But the list by family is still in French. Is a puzzlement. And, instead of presenting us with a long (very long) list of detailed aromas, why not adopt a strategy such as that used by Dr. Ann Noble’s Aroma Wheel? And do we really need flavors such as “asphalt” and “cats urine?” Perhaps in France those terms are necessary, but in the U.S. if you make a wine that includes one of those characteristics it means you’ve made a mistake. If you try to actually sell it, that would be tantamount to marketing suicide.
Foreign Travel Ready
Interestingly, there are more currency options than language choices. Naturally, the euro and the U.S. dollar are on the list. It’s not surprising to find the U.K. pound, Australian dollar, Japanese yen, Swiss franc, Russian ruble, Hong Kong dollar, Canadian dollar, Brazilian real, Israeli new shekel, and the Chinese yuan renminbi. Better have a copy of ISO 4217 handy, because the currencies are only given by their three-letter abbreviations. In fact, there is one currency abbreviation (RMB) that is not valid according to ISO 4217. Apparently RMB is the Chinese renminbi – which is identical to the yuan (ISO abbreviation CNY) which is not listed on the currency list. Thus Taste A Wine has decided to ignore ISO 4217 and declare the symbol for the Chinese yuan renminbi to be RMB rather than the correct CNY. Better yet, why not just give the names of the currencies? We realize real estate is limited on the iPhone, but this is ridiculous. We offer the following list as a public service to those using this app:
Three-Letter Abbreviation (TLA)
Chinese yuan renminbi
Hong Kong dollar
Israeli new shekel
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Eight Different Rating Scales
There are many additional nice features. You can select one of eight different rating scales. Adding a picture (presumably of the front label) can be done from from the gallery (iPad classic) or from the camera (iPad 2). However, we never did figure out how to use the camera with this app.
Social Media Connected
And social media are sort of integrated. You can link your tasting notes to Facebook and/or Twitter. There is an option to link to other social media, but there was nothing listed on the page under that option.
Our second major objection is the available descriptors. Consider, for example, the “nose” evaluations: appreciation, intensity, elegance, Oak, Freshness, … . None of these is descriptive. Instead they are reflections of personal preference. If you search long enough you can find the actual list of aromas, neatly sorted by family. But we have to ask, “Why bother with the descriptors on the sliders? Why not just cut to the chase?”
A Web Community – www.tasteawine.com
Like Cor.kz, Taste A Wine integrates their mobile app with a website. Unique among these products, Taste A Wine assigns points to each review, evaluates the reviewers, and standardizes the review scale. Let’s consider those items one at a time.
Anyone who has ever participated in a group tasting knows that different people have different standards. It happens that we have taken the weekend wine appreciation seminar offered by the U.C. Davis extension. We do not pretend to be expert tasters by any means but we are pretty well informed. And one issue for online tasting notes is how tasters are evaluated. Who is good and who is bad? Once on CellarTracker.com we submitted a tasting note for Steven Kent’s Radius III 2005 Bordeaux-style blend. Another taster had called this wine a Rhône blend. To their everlasting credit, CellarTracker made this correction immediately, but it was disconcerting to see a Steven Kent wine called a GSM blend when the winery is known for its cabernet sauvignon blends. (Steve Kent also owns the La Rochelle winery right next door. Their specialty is pinot noir.)
To their credit, Taste A Wine is transparent about how tasters are evaluated. From the FAQ:
“How do you evaluate the quality of a tasting note (and give points accordingly)?
The quality of a tasting is evaluated as follows :
|Written comment (manual), min. 140 caractères
|Written comment (wizard)
|less than 5 criteria
|5 criteria or more
|Price and place of purchase (with full address)
|Thorough review bonus
(Everything is filled out except perhaps Audio Comment and Written Manual OR Wizard comment)
Similarly, reviewers are rated using crowdsourcing:
“What is the approval rate?
This rate is the ratio between people who find that your notes are useful and people who find them useless.” (http://www.taste-a-wine.com/en/faq accessed December 11, 2011)
Somehow, an average rating for each wine must be produced. (Remember, reviewers can select one of eight different rating scales. Examples include 1 to 5, 1 to 10, and 1 to 100. And those are the easy ones.) Taste A Wine produces a “standardized rating” that presumably is the average of all the ratings. Whether a reviewer is weighted by their approval rate is unknown.
One Final Issue
Taste A Wine has one nasty habit we could live without. Whenever you write or update a review, sharing on Facebook and Twitter is automatically switched on. And GPS data is also recorded. The location where you did the tasting is then shown on a map on the web site. Our advice is to never give Taste A Wine access to your Facebook or Twitter accounts. In addition, turn off GPS, wifi, 3G, and anything else that might be used to locate you. I am about to delete a recently-archived post because it includes a map showing the location of our house — because I forgot to switch off the “Record GPS data” during one update.
Bottom Line – The best but buggy
On balance, Taste A Wine will meet the needs of most of us wine enthusiast intermediate tasters and even sommeliers. However, it can be confusing. And it does seem to have bugs — we were forced to power off and restart our devices on numerous occasions. The app’s power comes with a learning curve. Make sure you have your French translation dictionary handy and that you keep our list of currencies nearby. See if it can work for you.