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Pocket vino: We review 5 apps for managing your wine cellar

Christopher Null | March 6, 2015
We've come a long way since the era of the cellar book, when wine bottles had to be logged by hand in paperbound tomes and tracked by little tags hanging from their necks. The wine world is actively embracing technology, and home enthusiasts can get in on the action as well, using mobile apps to help keep their stash tabulated and organized.

Cellar is a harmless app that does the absolute, bare minimum when it comes to wine management. However, you could probably do a much better job by simply using a standard spreadsheet to track your cellar. I'd pay 99 cents for this app, max. A $10 a month subscription fee is downright criminal.

CellarTracker

CellarTracker is primarily a companion app to an online service available at cellartracker.com, but that shouldn't stop you from checking it out even if you've never visited the website. CellarTracker is unique in that it's (sort of) a subscription-based system.

The app itself is free, but it does (strongly) ask for a voluntary donation of $40 to $160 per year, depending on the size of your collection, to fund development as you add more and more wines. In the site's own words: "Payments are voluntary and help CellarTracker continue to provide you with excellent service. Most features are free, but some features such as automatic cellar valuation require a minimum payment of $20 per year to access."

Right out of the gate, this app's a winner. CellarTracker has a phenomenal search system that turns up just about everything when you search via keyword, but the real magic is in the service's UPC scanning system. Type in the UPC numbers or use your phone's camera to scan the barcode directly.

Unlike many other systems that promise this kind of functionality, CellarTracker's actually works and works very well. The scanner is fast and intuitive, and there's even a much-needed button that activates your phone's flash bulb to illuminate the UPC when you're in your dark cellar, making the chances for a successful scan much higher.

I had just a few instances with older wines where CellarTracker didn't recognize the UPC (keyword search still worked, though), and only one where the scanner couldn't get a read on the label, probably due to the curvature of the bottle distorting the image.

Whoever developed CellarTracker has a real knack for understanding intuitive software design, putting most of the critical functions right where you need them. (Favorite feature: First you add a wine, and then you pick the vintage from a quick panel of common options. Most other databases have a separate entry for every vintage, making it tough to find the exact wine you need.) All told, this app was by a wide margin the fastest and easiest way to digitize my wine cellar information.

CellarTracker doesn't have the fancy graphical cellar representation that VinoCellar and Vinoteka offer; rather, you simply assign a bin number to each wine, and it's up to you to keep your bins straight. But what it lacks in cellar sophistication it makes up for with thoughtful additions you won't find anywhere else. Most notably, CellarTracker includes integrated wine reviews and ratings averages from its legions of users, and access to professional reviews as well (though these cost extra). If you're down with the wisdom of crowds, it's a killer addition.

 

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