What do you do when you're ready to take the next step in wine drinking? As noted last week, anyone can learn about wine. But what do you do after you're starting to feel comfortable with the basics? You have found several wines and styles that you like, and you're ready to be more adventurous.
That's when it's time to start doing the paperwork, which is not as off-putting as it sounds. What it means is keeping track of the wines you drink, how much they cost, and whether you enjoyed them. In addition, now is the time to improve your wine vocabulary — not because you should start talking that way, but because so many other people do.
Fortunately, there are several tools to help you do these things. They're mostly easy to use, they're free and they're web-based. The latter means that you can access them from almost anywhere you find yourself drinking wine. After the jump, a look at four sites that will make your wine drinking easier, and even if you're not a novice.
? CellarTracker: I've tried most of the software, Web-based and otherwise, to manage wine inventory. CellarTracker is easily the best, and I don't just say that because it's free. Its database is amazingly comprehensive, and even includes regional wines. Mostly, all you have to do is type in the first word or so of the wine you want to track, and the software comes up with the correct wine. The interface, which used to periodically annoy me, has been improved; meanwhile, founder Eric LeVine has designed a slicker and more social-media oriented site, called GrapeStories, for those who want more of a focus on user reviews and what people visiting the site like to drink.
? Wine-searcher.com: No less than Jancis Robinson likes Wine-searcher.com, which is high praise indeed. It tracks wine prices and availability for 4 million wines at more than 19,000 retailers around the world, which means you're not limited to what Wine.com has to offer. There are two versions: the free, which offers limited results, and the pro, which costs $29.95 and includes every retailer for every wine. The free should be sufficient for almost anyone.
? The Winegrape Glossary: This is the place to find out what a Marechal Foch is, and whether mourvedre and monastrell are the same grape. It's a bit dated in parts, but is more accessible than the Grape Registry maintained by the University of California-Davis. Once your drinking takes you past the main European varietals, the glossary comes in quite handy.
? The Glossary of Wine-Tasting Terminology: Incredibly detailed and complete, this list of wine tasting terms has been hanging around the Internet for 15 years — an eon in the cyber ether. It includes almost everything you can think of from acetic to yeasty (no wine tasting terms start with Z, apparently).