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3 free apps to help you pick the perfect wine

To complete your romantic Valentine's Day dinner, you need to find the perfect wine. These three free apps can help.

I know nothing about wine other than reds give me an unfairly severe hangover if I drink more than two glasses of it. Thus, I tend to shy away from wine except for holiday dinners and special occasions. For Valentine's Day, I will look for a good bottle of red for my wife and I to drink with dinner.

Since I don't buy wine with regularity, I am quickly overwhelmed by the selection of wines at my local wine store or by any wine list at a restaurant. Armed with a wine app however, I have become a more confident wine buyer.

Vivino Wine Scanner

Why we like it: It provides tons of information in a neatly organized app and lets you order wine for delivery.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

I will never walk into a wine store without this app. There are a number of apps that let you scan a wine label to get information about the wine, but I found the Vivino Wine Scanner app provides the most useful information.

After you take a photo of a label, it gives you an average rating and price so you know if you are holding a good wine and a good price. You can also scan the text of a wine list should you find yourself clueless in a restaurant. In addition to rating and price, Vivino provides notes about the type of grape used in the wine, info about the winery which made the wine and a variety of additional rankings that rank the wine within its winery, region, country and world.

You can read reviews from other Vivino users and add your own, but what I find fun and interesting are the winemaker's notes (as in, "notes of toffee, cherry, fig, chocolate"), vintage comparison (how it stacks up to other years), and food pairing suggestions (beef, lamb, spicy food). The wines you scan are saved to a My Wines list and will eventually build a taste profile for you. You can also build a feed, where you can follow friends who use the app as well as wine enthusiasts and pros. It also recognizes the labels for beer and spirits but with less success than wine labels.

And since I last looked at the app, Vivino has added the ability to buy wine through the app and have it delivered to your door. Shipping costs $15 per order but is free if you spend $150 or more.

Vivino Wine Scanner is available for iOS and Android.


Why we like it: No account sign-up necessary and skilled at scanning beer and spirits in addition to wine.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

The free Wine-Searcher app lets you get to scanning right away. Some apps force you to pay for scanning privileges and most require you to create an account. With Wine-Searcher, you get free and immediate scanning capabilities. It shows you the average price for the bottle you scanned along with information about the grape, region and food suggestions. It also shows you critic scores and will list any prizes the wine has won, but you'll need to pay $5.99 a month via an in-app purchase for the Pro-level app if you want to scan more than 50 labels and get more critics notes and prices from more than just sponsored merchants. It also recognizes beer and spirits labels and was better at recognizing spirits than Vivino.

Wine-Searcher is available for iOS and Android.

Wine Spectator WineRatings+

Why we like it: Wine Spectator is the Bible of wine ratings.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

If I ever begin to amass a wine cellar's worth of wine, the WineRatings+ app from Wine Spectator magazine will prove useful. As it stands right now, it offers useful how-to articles and videos along with interesting vintage charts. These two items are free, along with a news feed of wine-related news articles. If you sign up for the monthly subscription ($2.99, £2.29, AU$3.79), you'll also get Wine Spectator's ratings and reviews.

Of the free content, I like perusing the vintage charts to see if the bottle I'm considering buying is from a good year for that particular region and grape. Since I'm a wine novice, I found a number of the how-to articles and videos to be illuminating, particularly those on how to pair wine and food.

Wine Spectator WineRatings+ is available for iOS and Android.

Editors' note: This story was originally published on Feb. 9, 2015 and has been updated with new apps and information.