I’m a fan of technology. So much so that James, my nephew, now in his twenties christened me ‘The Gadget Man’ almost as soon as he was old enough to get the words out. What is more, I am not, by nature a terribly organised person. Distinctly right-brained people rarely are. So if technology can help purge some of the chaos from my life I call it up.
For about the last 5 or 6 years I’ve been looking for a convenient way of writing wine tasting notes and storing them on my desktop computer. The advent of the iPod Touch and indeed, the iPhone was manna from heaven to me… or so I thought. I downloaded a few apps, tried them out. People who saw me tapping away at tastings were intrigued. However, I realised early on that most of the early apps in this field were devised with cellar management in mind. The excellent Vinoteka, which I now use solely to manage my meagre collection of bottles laid down being a case in point. Its deployment for this task will save me a repeat of the 1985 Bandol disaster – in 2011 I came across 3 bottles squirrelled away under the floorboards in a spare room; all were oxidised to hell.
When it came to writing tasting notes most of the apps were too simplistic. Others were too unwieldy. With much regret I went back to pen and notebook, or, to be truthful, an indiscriminate collection of notebooks that served to compound the aforesaid chaos. The recent purchase of an iPad Mini rekindled my interest so I revisited the App Store to see if the passage of time had thrown up better stuff. It had. I’ve been using Wine Notes, one of the most beautiful and ‘sexy’ Apps in any genre, IMO. For the average wine lover, who probably tastes/drinks a dozen bottles a month over 3-4 sittings Wine Notes is a lovely app to have and use. The click-in lists of aroma and flavour descriptors is comprehensive as most would need – if not, it can be edited to add the likes of ‘gun-smoke’, ‘wattle seed’, ‘Marmite’ ‘three year old Nike trainers’ or whatever. There are gorgeous maps; a built-in database of wines; a facility to snap a barcode and more.
Alas, for the wine writer, who has to taste a high number of wines in a short space of time, Wine Notes is just too cumbersome. It initially only worked on the iPhone and iPod Touch -the iPad, particularly the mini version, too my mind, strikes the best compromise between portability and convenience. FOOTNOTE: Today, messing, I found it works on the iPad too, obviously been updated.
But lately, I’ve found an app that seems to be designed for use by ‘professionals’ – a term I hate, but whatever. By which I mean people in the wine business, wine writers and keen WSET students. This app is called Winescribe and when it comes to vinous note-taking it really is as good as it gets. It is easy and quick to use; offers help in the shape of drop-down lists – vintages, descriptors, etc and also has a ‘lightbox’ feature that enables judgement of a wine’s colour and clarity in, say, a dark, windowless tasting room. There’s a compilation of wine terms (badged as ‘Dictionary’, a wee bit overblown) which early WSET students might find useful. There is also the facility to export your notes as an Excel spreadsheet on e-mail – a great feature for wine clubs. Also, uniquely I think, Winescribe offers the user a choice of employing the 100, 20 or 5 point scoring system. Competitions, particularly in Oz or New Zealand use the 20 point system almost exclusively, as do Martin Moran and I for our Sunday Times tastings.
I do have one or two quibbles. Chiefly that the list of descriptors is too simplistic to suit the pros, all of whom have a wider wine vocabulary than the average wine lover, with, as I’ve outlined above, their own pet descriptors. Having a list one could edit would be the perfect refinement (maybe in the next update, Mister Winescribe Developer). The ‘Faulty’ section could be expanded – I couldn’t find ‘corked’ nor ‘bretty’ but that’s a minor quibble.
Lastly (and purely for the purposes of my Sunday Times Tastings) I would love the facility to create a list from which you could ‘pick with a click’. In my case I’d use it to incorporate stockists, of which Ireland has more than the average. Cutting-and-pasting 5 or 6 for each wine, from a database of 50+ outlets is trying and time-consuming, I find. For writers in the UK, where 90% of the wines are in the hands of four or five major supermarket chains , this might not be seen as a problem.
I purchased Winescribe on the App Store – it is specifically designed for the iPad – for €4.99.
http://winenotesapp.com (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad)
For an ingenious and useful app that doesn’t fit the spec as outlined above try https://www.vivino.com