How Often Should I Organize My Wine Cellar?

how often should I organize my wine cellar

I usually organize my wine cellar two or three times per year, although it’s possible for your cellar to maintain itself, with no additional organizing needed. Photo Credit: Flickr CC user Stewart Butterfield

When collectors ask me how often they should organize their wine cellars, they give me a strange look when I respond, “Ideally, never.” The best wine cellars are those that stay organized without much additional effort on your part, and as an organization expert, I’ve helped many clients accomplish this goal. I once met a collector who owned more than 2,000 bottles, yet he knew exactly where every vintage was located in his cellar, from his 2005 La Tache to his case of 1999 Jadot. His secret was an extensive barcode system that did the work for him, allowing him to spend more time enjoying his wine. Anyone can create a cellar like this, no matter how large or small the collection.

The Best Cellar Organizes Itself

Before wine apps, the internet, and wine label barcodes existed, collectors either had to rely on memory or carefully separated wine racks to find what they need. The problem with this system is that wines could easily be forgotten and turn into vinegar on the shelf. In addition, collectors had to reorganize and take stock of their cellars whenever they added new wines to their collection. Owning a cellar was a full-time job, and some wealthy collectors even hired special attendants to keep an eye on the bottles and make sure that every vintage was in its proper location. I estimate that you would need to organize your wine cellar at least once a month, if not more often, using this kind of system.

Alternatively, you can print barcode labels for every bottle you own and upload them into a wine app that keeps track of their location and anticipated drink date. The best wine apps allow you to store special notes on every bottle, which means that you never have to remember where they are. Let’s say you own a bottle of 2000 Lafite Rothschild. When you search for that wine in the app, it can tell you where it’s located (on the very top of the third wine rack from the door), allowing you to grab the bottle quickly whenever you want it. Using this app, you can put your bottles wherever you would like, even in no particular order, since their locations are listed in the descriptions online. Your Bordeaux can be mixed in with your California cult wine; just make sure you keep your bottles in the same spot or update the information in the app if you move them.

Prepare for Spring and Fall Allocations

Even though my collection maintains itself, I still go through my wine cellar twice per year: once in the spring and once in the fall, shortly before my new wine allocations are ready to ship. Although I don’t have to do this, taking a couple of hours to go through my collection in-person can keep me organized in other ways. First, it helps me see how my storage space is holding up, and whether I need to consider moving some bottles to a professional storage warehouse to make room for allocations–a wine app can’t always tell you this information. You need to identify potential storage problems before new cases start arriving on your doorstep, and a brief organizational session is the perfect opportunity to do so.

In addition, organizing once in the spring and the fall helps me see holes in my collection. Generally, spring and fall are the best times to order and ship wine because the weather is mild and wineries offer better purchase deals. If I notice that my white Burgundy is running low, I can order a few new bottles via allocations and have them shipped to my cellar before the weather gets too extreme. Combing through your wine cellar twice a year is a tool for analyzing how your collection can improve and taking a few moments to appreciate what you’ve accomplished as a collector.

Optional Summer Clearing

I love to go through my wine cellar once more in the summer, partly because the cool cellar air is a nice reprieve from the hot weather. However, this is also the time of the year when I need to prepare for outdoor parties and find a place to store my seasonal summer wines. When I organize my wine cellar in the summer, I focus on clearing at least one shelf for new bottles of rosé and crisp whites like Sauvignon Blanc. These bottles are meant to be drunk young, so it’s helpful to have a specific space ready for them, and to avoid mixing them in with age-worthy bottles. Your bottles are also most susceptible to heat damage in the summer, and taking the time to organize your cellar before the weather gets too hot will help you find problem spots in your insulation and cooling.

Generally, the perfect wine cellar organization system will automatically take care of the basics, like keeping track of bottle location and reminding you when your bottles are ready to drink. In theory, you never have to organize your cellar more than once with this method. However, taking the time to walk through your cellar two or three times per year is an excellent way to catch problems with your collection and it allows you to connect with your bottles in-person. I always feel a deeper appreciation for the art of wine when I spend a few hours in a cellar.

Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. Contact us today to get access to the world’s best wine.

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.