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How do you organize your wine cellar?

  • Pip Feb 21, 2013 09:57 AM
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I currently have about 100 bottles of wine in my cellar, and I am looking for some suggestions on how to organize it. Should it be by region? varietal? when to drink? winery?

I'm toying with the idea of keeping the most reachable area for "drink now" wines, then organize the rest by varietal then winery.

For context, I have wine from various regions in California and Washington from about 14 different wineries. And I have zin, cab, petite sirah, syrah, pinot noir, and chardonnay.

Any suggestions on how you organize yours is appreciated! Thanks!

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  1. Varietal, then drink-by date.

    1. Red on one side, white on the other. Stuff I buy by the case gets one row per case (my Vinotemp 600's rows are 7 wide / 2 deep) in no particular order. Grouped together:

      - stuff to age
      - stuff to try soon to decide whether to get a case
      - misc. reds for current drinking
      - misc. whites for current drinking
      - misc. Alsatian / German whites for current drinking
      - misc. rosés for current drinking
      - dessert
      - stuff I don't like that my friends might

      1 Reply
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Me too. Whites on the left, reds on the right. Then from drink now to drink later. Sometimes I (not only "I"!) drink them so fast it's hard to keep straight. But my 1st priority is the whites left, and reds right.

      2. Organize?

        2 Replies
        1. re: zin1953

          Ditto.
          Reminds me of what Gandhi said when asked what he thinks of western civilization: "I think it would be a good idea. "

          1. re: zin1953

            LOL!

          2. You can organize and do easy sorts with bin numbers/coordinates in your cellar and a spread sheet on your PC. Just keep it current. My brother & SIL in Vermont do this, they have a real wine cellar.

            6 Replies
            1. re: Veggo

              Interesting idea. If I set up a spreadsheet in Google Docs, I could use my smartphone to delete stuff as I drink it.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                My BIL uses cork.kz, scans most bar codes, assigns locator numbers etc, but there may be a better one available now.

                For myself, I use the CSI system (cram sh*t in).

                1. re: PolarBear

                  Lol! CSI...have to remember that one.

                  1. re: PolarBear

                    wines I buy at wineries generally don't have bar codes. Especially the ones from Europe.

                    1. re: PolarBear

                      cor.kz is the app linked to cellartracker.com

                  2. re: Veggo

                    I use an Excel spreadsheet fat I can sort by whichever column....... Usually variety then vintage. As you say, though, the whole thing falls apart if you don't keep it up.

                  3. You can use cellartracker.com and/or use a spreadsheet. You can label - locations/bins/shelves.

                    I sort by region then producer as I tend to identify what I want through cellartracker or a spreadsheet, and then I just need to go into storage and find it. I'm not a let me look at all my reds and then see what I feel like drinking type person.

                    1. I usually just put the red one next to the white one.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: grampart

                        So what you do with the pink?

                        1. re: RicRios

                          Hey, sophisticated winos stay away from that pink stuff.

                        2. re: grampart

                          Think about putting the white in the reefer. The red doesn't need the reefer tho. But sometimes the leftovers turn pink, that I put in the reefer.

                        3. No real organization, really. I try to put them together by region but its don't really think about it too much. I use CellarTracker (highly recommend it, by the way) and just put up the wine where I have open spots.

                          Cellars have limited space and I found over time that my tastes and preferences changed. At one point probably half of what I owned was Cali Cabs. Now that is hardly the case. The size of different regions for me, over time, shrinks and swells.

                          1. Red, White, Rose, Bubbles.

                            Within Red or White, by varietal.
                            Within varietal, by year.
                            Ready to drink, easiest to reach.

                            Within Rose and Bubbles, by region or country.

                            Within Bubbles, vintage and non-vintage.
                            Ready to drink and non-vintage easiest to reach.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: maria lorraine

                              Curious - how do you handle the varietal aspect with blends (esp. if you don't know the % composition)?

                              1. re: goldangl95

                                I didn't get that specific in my post above, but I do have a separate section for Red Blends and White Blends. If a blend seems dominated by a varietal, then I usually put it with the varietal, e.g., Insignia, from Phelps, an inky proprietary "Red Table Wine." I put that with the Cab, since it's most like Cab and ages like Cab.

                                Rhones and Burgundy have a separate category. White Bordeaux go into the White blends. So, there's a logic but perhaps it's not all that obvious. Works for me, though.

                            2. I am sort of with Jason.

                              Once, I organized by geography, then by varietal, but that was when I was filling a 3700 btl. cellar. That lasted for about a year. Suddenly, I was out of space here, and there. I began moving stuff around, but that only lasted for about a month. Next thing I knew, I was stacking case, upon case, on the floor and up to the 9' ceiling. Now, I have things stuck everywhere, and even an overflow in my office. I am buying more than drinking, which is a very bad thing, and that cellar is stuffed with over 9K btls.

                              To grab a magunm of Benovia PN tonight, I had to dig.

                              Hunt

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                Well, I don't have 9,000 bottles -- probably somewhere around 75-100 cases . . . I honestly don't know. That's the disadvantage of having my wines stored in three different locations, although that's (in part) due to moving from San Francisco to Berkeley in 2002, along with a holdover from the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, which forced me to find new location(s) for my cellar when the building that was then housing my "stash" collapsed . . . .

                                Theoretically, when I buy new wine and bring it home, it moves from my home into the "long-term" cellar (if appropriate), which is elsewhere.

                                Theoretically, the wines I have in our cellar are wines to be consumed in the next year or so, but there are always wines that need to get moved to the long-term cellar there (but I haven't gotten around to it yet).

                                I have a small wine "refrigerator" in our house that holds 36 bottles; there are approximately 20 cases in our cellar. The rest are stored in two separate facilities . . . one of these days I need to consolidate that.

                                The problem (for me) with all this organizing is the number of times I have to move cases. If I have, say, wooden cases stacked five high, and I have a new case of wine to store -- do I really need to pull out those five cases, put the newest one at the bottom, and re-stack the five on top of the sixth??? It's a royal PITA! (Then again, because my wines were in wood, instead of wine racks, I only lost two bottles out of 75 cases in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, epicentered < six miles from my cellar.) So the organization scheme goes slightly off-kilter.

                                Basically, I have different stacks for different wines . . . first separated by color, but then by area/type: i.e.: Burgundies here, Bordeaux there; Northern Rhône there; Southern Rhône next to it; Douro here, Rioja there, followed by Priorat/Montsant; and so on. California varietals are stacked in the "California" section by variety.

                                But is everything organized? Neat? Even written down somewhere? God, no . . .

                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                  Nice cellar! No wonder you know so much.

                                2. I have a lot of experience with this - restaurant inventory, restaurant wine lists . . .

                                  Now I have a cave-à-vin that holds about 180-200 bottles on six shelves A-B-C-D-E-F plus a small cellar and cool garage storage during the winter. I keep an inventory list on the front of this appliance and mark off the bottles as I used them. For example,

                                  C Pouilly-Fuissé 2009 Verget Terres de Pierres Chardonnay 1 2 3 X

                                  Bottles needing to be drunk soon are listed in italics.

                                  I have a second list for vins de garde and on this list the maturation date is noted beside each wine.

                                  F Pernand-Vergelesses 2004 Ile de Vergelesses 1er Cru Rapet 2009 (yum!)

                                  For all I recommend arrangement by varietal. After all you do want to consider the red Burgundy alongside the Oregon Pinot Noir.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: collioure

                                    >>> After all you do want to consider the red Burgundy alongside the Oregon Pinot Noir. <<<

                                    Hmmm . . . .

                                    I don't. There are times when I want a Burgundy, and other times when I want a domestic Pinot Noir -- to me, they're quite different. But YMMV.

                                    As for the rest, while it may seem to me that you have too much time on your hands -- ;^) -- it's clearly a workable system.

                                    1. re: zin1953

                                      Jason, you have a more refined palate. I make it a point to choose the right grape and the right intensity.

                                      Too much time? No, not much at all. I have spent too much time scouring the fall supermarket offerings to find some good wines from elsewhere in this country, but I am going to do much less of that. Instead this year I will begin ordering direct from better vintners in Alsace, in the Loire, in Jurançon and eventually in Burgundy when my stock runs down a bit more. I always make one afternoon pass through the vineyards here every autumn. Pretty drive.

                                      1. re: zin1953

                                        Pardon me, I do not arrange all the shelves by grape. It is the master list that is arranged by grape. I consult the list to choose a wine and note its location. Nevertheless I do try to store like wines together.

                                        BTW I like Robert's ideas.

                                    2. As mentioned above, do yourself a HUGE favor before you get too many bottles (>50, heck why not >25, it's essentially free unless you want to make a donation which I do every year), start using CellarTracker:

                                      https://www.cellartracker.com (new version

                                      )

                                      https://www.cellartracker.com/classic... (old version I still use, but your wines appear in both versions

                                      )

                                      Unless you have a lot of space in your cellar (unlikely to last, since wines seem to reproduce like rabbits!), there is no point in trying to organize it. Just plop your bottles into any open space and record the location in cellar tracker (I have 3 Eurocaves, which I call "A", "B", and "C", and in each one I number the shelf from #1-8 (combination of bulk and roller shelves).

                                      CT has virtually every bottle of wine you are ever likely to own already entered in the database and the search algorithm is so good that entering a new purchase takes like 15 seconds, so there's no reason not to keep it updated.

                                      If you want to look for bottles that are ready to drink, CT allows you to do that search. If you want to see all the Zins you have, just do a search. If you want to just look for ideas for dinner, pull up the alphabetical list and scroll down to see what you have (I forgot I had that!). No organization required.

                                      Also the Cork.z app allows you to see what you have in CT on your smartphone while in the wineshop (which prevents me from buying more of something I already have, a common problem!). Apparently CT is also working on their own app, but Cork.z works well in the meantime.

                                      I first started using it when I moved between states and the movers needed a list of what I had for insurance purposes (and I never kept my Excel up to date because it was so tedious to type everything in). It took a day to unload all the cellars and enter everything into CT, but now that I have, it is so much easier to keep things up to date. Very little typing is required in CT because as soon as you start typing the software suggests wines that match and you just click on the right one.

                                      CT revolutionized my life!

                                      @PhillyBestBYOB on Twitter

                                      1. If you could call what I do any type of organization, I would say my cellar is organized by producer and within that when to drink. It works for me because the majority of my bottles are stored horizontally with the capsule facing out so if I need to find a specific bottle I can usually tell from the capsules as to where to begin looking.

                                        1. When I started with about 60 bottles it was pretty easy because everything fit in an IKEA rack and those plastic neck tags ID'd everything pretty quickly. After I hit hundreds of bottles things got pretty bad even with CellarTracker because everything was in case boxes, which of course get moved around when you're hunting for something.

                                          I did have the chance to build a cellar and re-inventoried everything with CellarTracker when the bottles went in. The initial distribution was loosely by country then region/appellation, with "summer sippers" and immediate consumption stuff in the rack closest to the door. Keeping that system isn't practical if one continues to add wines (except for the immediate consumption stuff), but labeling the racks and using CellarTracker means that having things all over is less of an issue.

                                          The CellarVu front end for CellarTracker is a very nice way to browse what's there but it's iPad only.

                                          1. Though this is a bit late, the way I organised my wine cellar was within these broad groups:

                                            Aromatic whites (eg, Gewurztraminer, dry Muscat)
                                            Acidic whites (eg, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc)
                                            Oaked/Full whites (eg, Chardonnay, Viognier)
                                            Light reds (eg, Gamay, Pinot Noir)
                                            Medium reds (eg, Merlot, Sangiovese)
                                            Full reds (eg, Cab Sauv, Nebbiolo)
                                            Dessert (eg, Icewine, Sauternes) & Half-bottles
                                            Sparkling (eg, Champagne, Moscato d'Asti)
                                            Fruit/Flavoured wines
                                            Magnum-sized bottles
                                            Spirits

                                            Aromatic white wines tend to peak much sooner than full-bodied reds, so aromatic whites were placed near the top, and full-bodied reds were at the bottom. Fortified wines were separated depending on weight and style--the vintage Port was at the very bottom, the Madeira and Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise were classified as dessert, and Amontillado was close to the top. For wines which I hadn't tried, I took my best guess according to reviews and stuck them where it seemed appropriate.

                                            Dessert wines and half-bottles were kept in a nearby re-purposed shoe rack, sparkling wines were kept in a small rack to themselves, the magnums (magna?) fit on a shelf separating the racks, and the spirits were kept in some cases near the wine racks.

                                            Besides the use for ageing the wines, classifying the wines the way I did helped with figuring out what wines would go well with whatever I wanted to cook for dinner. If I were cooking something with red pepper, for example, an idea could be Cab Franc, which would generally be in the medium-bodied red section. On the other hand, if I were cooking a Pad Thai, then I could go for something like a Gewurztraminer (in the aromatic section) or a Riesling (in the acidic section). While it was idiosyncratic, it really did work for me well.

                                            Good luck with your cellar!

                                            1. By varietal and region. I've done it both ways but tend to prefer grouping first by varietal..... do I want a cali cab, a french, a chilean, an aussie... they're all right there together.

                                              ... the merit of this method is to group together wines that I will serve with similar food pairings, it just helps to visualize all of them side by side.

                                              1. I don't. I use CellarTracker and just put bottles in an empty spot. I make an attempt to put Cali Cabs in one area, Bordeaux in another, Burgundy in another....

                                                I quit worrying about organizing by region/variety/whatever because over the years my preferences have changed. Cellar space, regardless of size, is limited. I used to buy a lot more Cali cab than I do now and that part of the cellar is full. So if I buy more then I have to put it in a different location.

                                                As I buy more Barolo, for instance, I need more space but if my Italian or Barolo part of the cellar is full I don't have a choice but to put it somewhere else.

                                                But with CellarTracker it doesn't matter where the wine is because I can find the wine quickly regardless. I don't think the wines care where they are located or who they are next to!

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: HoosierFoodie

                                                  Everyone should check out CellarTracker right now. It's one of those things that you'll wonder how you ever did without. Just start using it for everything new you buy to try it out.

                                                  Of course, you do have to enter everything first (but that is surprisingly easy given their "autocomplete wine name" entry system).

                                                2. I have two lists which organize the location of wine here.

                                                  For the principal list the reds are grouped by body weight, the whites by varietal. The long term keepers list of reds is oranized by grape type

                                                  1. I have about the same amount 100-120Btls and since my tastes have changed since i started, I have also changed my organization. I sort by wineries mostly. Most of my collection is from Santa cruz Mtns and about 6 wineries. Mostly Cab, Pinot and Syrah. I keep a mixed case of Chards for times when folks drop in and the rest is sparklers and dessert. I have a few bottles of CnP and and a mixed case of Leitz Reislings. My goal tho is to turn over 75% every 1-3 years and not get too attached, except for my Ahlgrens which I always make room for. 100 bottles is not much inventory tho and I can always see what I have without too much problem

                                                    1. I probably need to reorganize mine. I don't have nearly the number of bottles some of you've listed. I have a wine fridge that holds 80+ bottles. I try to keep the "good" bottles in there, but lately they're overflowing. Next to the fridge is a table that has a wine rack underneath. That holds 24 bottles. In the kitchen there's another rack for 12 bottles of everyday wine. The rest of the overflow is in the boxes they came in wherever there's room! I probably need some kind of database to keep track, because every now and then I "lose" a bottle. Mostly that's because we drank it, but sometimes I'm not sure. Maybe next weekend... ;)