Why You Should Consider Barcoding Your Wine Collection with a Cellar Management App

Barcoding Your Wine

Combining wine barcodes with cellar management apps helps you keep your cellar organized and provides you with immediate market data. Photo Credit: Pixabay CC user PDPhotos

Forbes’ Tyler Colman set out to find the best wine app that could identify wine bottles in his cellar using only his phone’s camera. After trying a few cellar management apps, he landed on one that looked promising — until he put it to the test. The app claimed it could scan any wine bottle’s barcode, identify the wine and offer market data on the vintage. When Colman tested it on a mixed case of bottles, the app failed on nearly every one; it only correctly scanned 17 percent of the bottles in the case. Colman came to the conclusion that technology hasn’t caught up with wine collections yet. While this is perhaps true for many wine cellar management apps, all is not lost. Apps that use their own barcoding systems are more accurate because they don’t rely on the winery’s original barcodes to identify a wine. Printing your own wine barcodes (and using them with an app like VinCellar) allows you to easily keep track of your wines without entering countless data points by hand.  

The Benefits of Barcoding Your Wine

Wine collector George Chammas owns more than 3,000 bottles of wine, so it would have been a time-consuming process for him to enter data and apply barcode labels to every one of those bottles. In order to save time, he had Vinfolio’s staff barcode his wines for him. What followed was a simple, organized wine cellar system that Chammas was able to use every day. He says, “This gives you a way to track the value of your wines, especially these days, as prices have gone up a lot.” By simply scanning one of your bottle’s barcodes, you can have all of the current market data for that vintage at your fingertips, no additional research needed. It also shows you when your wines are ready to be drunk, which prevents spoilage.

Not only do barcodes give you the market data you need, you can keep better tasting notes and keep your cellar well-organized. Whenever you feel like reorganizing your wine cellar, all you have to do is scan the bottles that you pick up, then edit the bottle’s location status on the VinCellar app after it identifies the wine. Rather than remembering where you moved the bottle, you can pull it up on the VinCellar app online, and find its new location immediately. As for tasting notes, the hardest part about keeping updated notes is reminding yourself to jot them down after you’ve enjoyed your wine. Barcodes make this easier; just scan your wine bottle after you’re done drinking it, and you’ll be taken to the tasting note page. From there, you can either enter a basic rating for the wine, or type up a fully detailed note before you’ve even thrown the bottle away.

The Wine Barcode Full-Service Option

To use the VinCellar app with a barcode system, you need to choose between either a DIY approach or a full-service option. The full-service option is best for collectors who have massive wine collections, because entering wine data by-hand is a long and complicated process. Vinfolio offers an inventory service in which a wine expert visits your wine cellar, bringing along a computer, a digital camera, a barcode scanner and label printers — everything you need to barcode your wines. The expert uploads your wines into the VinCellar app by producer, name, vintage, bottle size and cellar location. Once this is done, the expert prints off a barcode for the wine that’s generated by the VinCellar app, attaching it to the bottle. What makes this system successful is that the barcodes are unique to VinCellar. You never have to worry about updating the app to identify new barcodes every time a winery releases a new wine.

The DIY Approach to Barcoding Your Wine

A full-service option comes with some small fees. If you want to avoid these entirely, you can upload the wines into the app yourself, however, paying someone a small fee to upload them into the system for you will likely save you more money in the long run, especially if you have hundreds of bottles of wine. Vinfolio charges anywhere from about $1 per bottle to $2.50 per bottle, depending on the scope of the collection and whether an expert is uploading the wines in-person or via email. For a somewhat DIY approach, you can ask Vinfolio to upload the wine data via email, then print the barcodes from home, which typically costs less than an in-person visit. To enter data and print your own barcodes from the VinCellar app yourself, follow the steps listed here. The downside to this option is that you have to spend money on a label printer and take the time to enter the data by hand.

Which Option Is Right for You?

Not sure whether you should enter the data in yourself or hire one of Vinfolio’s experts? You’ll need to do some quick calculations to find the right option for your wine collection. First, look at the cost of buying the equipment required to print your own barcodes; you’ll need both a barcode scanner and a label printer. Basic label printers cost about $150 and as much as $300 for high-end models. Since it typically only costs about $1 per bottle to have Vinfolio print barcodes for you, anyone who owns less than 100 or even 300 bottles of wine will find the full-service option cheaper.

If you have a massive wine collection, you’ll need to consider your time, in addition to the cost of equipment. Start by applying an hourly dollar value to your free-time. The more free time you have, the lower this number will be. For instance, someone who works 70 hours per week is going to have very little free-time, so their time estimate might be as much as $150 per hour. Alternatively, someone who only works 25 hours per week is going to have far more free time to work on a barcoding project, so the dollar estimate might be as low as $20 per hour.

Add up the cost of the equipment and the amount of time you’ll likely spend entering your wines into the system (as expressed by your dollar value). A busy collector who owns 500 wine bottles will spend about 10 hours or more uploading the wines by hand. If this collector buys a $150 label printer, and he estimates that his time is worth about $100 per hour, he can expect the total “cost” of his DIY project to be about $1,150. Compare this amount to the full-service cost. Letting Vinfolio print the barcodes at about $1 per bottle, the collector’s cost could be as low as $500 instead.

No matter which option you choose, DIY or full-service, you will see a huge benefit for your wine cellar. Let Vinfolio guide you through the process. Contact one of our wine experts to discuss barcoding options for your own wine cellar, and get organized today!

With over a decade of experience in the wine industry, Derek Cienfuegos serves as Director of Collector Services at Vinfolio. During his tenure at Vinfolio, he has had the good fortune to work with some of the most distinguished wine collections in the country. Trained in wine production, Derek spent many years making wines commercially for some of Sonoma’s top producers. In addition, he has designed, opened, and managed two wine bars in San Francisco.