Delectable: the only wine app you need

In my wine classes, people often ask me, “What’s the best wine app?” I’ve been using wine apps since the early days of the app store and have generally found that they try to do too much (“a million logically possible food-wine pairings”) or too little (only offer limited price comparisons). But now when I am asked, I have an answer: Delectable.

The main feature that makes Delectable the standout wine app is its incredible optical recognition. Out to dinner and enjoying a wine? You could simply snap a picture to remember, always a good a idea. But if you take that picture with the Delectable app, it will upload it to their servers, have all their minions pore over it, and then actually fill in all the relevant data. I tried beat the app with a few dimly-lit, hard-to-read labels or obscure micro-production wines and it nailed them all. (Some users have reported that it does have trouble Hellenic wines–apparently, it’s all Greek to them.) The only downside was that it could take a while to recognize the label–ten minutes in one case–but, as I say, I couldn’t stump it. The relevant information about the wine is loaded and the user can rate the wine on a sliding scale ranging from frowny face to smiley face. Using it over a longer period of time not only gives you a log of which wines you’ve had, but also which grape varieties and regions, which is a terrific way of subtly encouraging you to try more of each.

alex_fishman_delectableThe force behind the company is Alex Fishman, who graduated from Carnegie-Mellon in 2006 and later joined Palantir, the Silicon Valley company, now valued at $9 billion, that does a lot of work for the NSA and the CIA in counterterrorism (here’s a backgrounder in Forbes). Fishman told me over coffee in New York recently that after he had been at Palantir a few years, CEO Alex Karp supported him to pursue his own startup. Fishman said he had always been into food but found wine daunting.

“If you have a mission-driven approach to creating a company, you can do incredible things, such as fight terrorism,” Fishman said. “Our mission at Delectable is to make the world a more delicious place.”

Moreover, it had to be easy (it doesn’t involve typing), mobile (it’s only on smartphones) and intuitive (the smiley-face ratings).

Fishman underscores Delectable’s contribution: “Nobody really had a data set of every SKU and nobody had it on mobile. Ours is the most complete dataset right now.” Comparing the database structure to Cellartracker, he says that the Cellartracker database has a limited number of fields whereas his database structure could have infinite fields for tagging and coding wines.

Fishman is at his most animated when speaking of Delectable’s “social graph,” a fine-grained look at wine: not only where it is produced but where it is consumed and which users are the key influencers. He’s thrilled with the community aspect of the free app, which has been downloaded 2.1 million times. “We know what’s trending, we know which regions are hot,” he said. The most popular regions for Delectable users are California, Champagne and Burgundy, he said, which offers a perspective on the active user base.

“Everyone wants to discover new wines. Wine nerds want to engage with each other. Regular folks want to get ideas,” he said pointing to various leading sommeliers and California winemakers who use the app.

Fishman sees this community aspect as giving a firmer commercial footing to small wineries. “Wine has been incredibly undemocratic,” he said referring to the once-dominant role of critics. “We had to make it democratic or traditional winemaking will die.” Delectable has partnered with a couple of dozen retailers from around the country that it deems among the best, such as K&L and Crush Wine and Spirits. The app now offers an option to purchase a wine via this network once a user uploads an image of it. He says they receive most clicks to purchase on the weekends and, thanks to geolocation, they know that many of those users are ordering while out to dinner at restaurants.

Will data be used for good or evil? Fishman told me, “We aim for good. Our data won’t be used for focus groups and the trade.”

In my use of the app, I have found the community aspect the most underwhelming. Posting the same photos on Instagram and Delectable, I got many more “likes” on Instagram–but I have more followers there too. Fishman aims to change that by making Delectable “THE wine community” within a year. He also aims to hire more engineers and speed up the optical recognition; hopefully, a cellar management component will be added. With their access to capital and connections in Silicon Valley, this is definitely a company to watch.

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15 Responses to “Delectable: the only wine app you need”

  1. Have you tried the Vivino App. I would be interested in your comparison

  2. i’ve asked delectable 2x when the app would be available for android; the answer’s like the placard i saw once at a bar: ‘free beer tomorrow’

  3. Interesting! We’ll have to give this one a try. We recently reviewed Vivino on our blog but have never heard of Delectable so we’ll have to do a comparison.

  4. @Bill St. John We’re sorry for not having the Android app ready yet, we’re working hard on it as we speak! The engineering team is always balancing speed and efficiency but prioritizes releasing something we’re all proud of. Stay tuned, we’ll announce it as soon as it’s ready and send an email to everyone on our Android mailing list. Thanks for your patience!

  5. I’ve known about Delectable for a while now but with no Android version they’re limiting their reach. I see from the above comment that one is coming, and look forward to trying it. That said, I haven’t used Vivino either but I do like the idea behind both apps. I think these are the tools we need to democratize wine reviews/appreciation.

  6. It’s not available for Android and it’s not available for iPad, either. In fact, if you type Delectable on the App Store it brings up another wine app, called Wine Cellar Database, which I imagine has nothing to do with Delectable….

  7. I tried to upload 2 wines. Both were being identified for at least an hour. Information on both wines is poor.
    Are you getting paid for this?

  8. […] According to Tyler Colman, Delectable is “the only wine app you need.” […]

  9. Hi Richard – Yes, I poked around on Vivino. I uploaded some of the same (hard) wine labels to their optical recognition and some of them were shunted off into a queue for “manual recognition.” Even then they got incomplete information about the wines. One that came back quickly had the wrong wine name and wrong vintage. It does have a cellar management function. And it works on Android. So it certainly has good things going for it. But, in the end, I preferred the look and feel and emergent community on Delectable.

  10. @ Roger – Were the wines in another (e.g. Cyrillic) alphabet? I have tried wines from several countries with confusing art and/or fonts with some were poorly lit and the app successfully identified all characteristics (producer, region, vintage, etc) of each. Granted, some did take a while, but nowhere near an hour. And, no, I received no compensation from Delectable–thank you for asking.

  11. Have you tried out Wine with Friends app? It is more about the tasting & the sharing of wine with friends than the classification. It’s really fun to spin the flavor wheel and pick out flavors and aromas with the wheel as inspiration.

  12. […] Dr. Vino recently shared his top pick for wine apps — Delectable. The reason this one stands out amidst the vat of others for the doctor? Because you can take even crappy pictures of the wine you’re drinking at any given moment, and the “minions” behind the app will supply all relevant information about the juice, from producer and region to what kind of consumers are enjoying it. Essentially, Dr. Vino ranks it highly because the design accomplishes for wine what design attempts to accomplish these days for so many realms: a reflection of its users. This app not only gives you information, it does so upon a spectrum of who you are because of this data. It not only brings light to a dim-lit photo of a delicious bottle, but to a perhaps dim understanding of where your tastebuds fall in the oft-obscure and erudite world of wine. No wonder he, and 900 reviewers, like it. […]

  13. Personally, I like Vivino..It does it all and works across both the android and IOS platforms

  14. I agree with Chris. I think Vivino beats Delectable in most fronts, including the platforms. Delectable took about an hour to recognise a Spanish label; that same label took Vivino less than 1 minute. I don’t get paid by Vivino to promote their app either!

  15. I’ve heard good things about delectable but, like a lot of other commenters, I have an Android phone so I’ve been using Vivino.

    I’ve had no trouble with it recognising wine labels (mostly Australian wine) although yes, every now and then it gets something wrong. I suspect that’s more to do with the backend data (which may be end user added) than the OCR tech.


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