One of my friends works as a chef at a California winery, and over the years, she’s gathered a modest stash of about 50 bottles from her employers. But rather than keeping these bottles neatly on a wine rack in a cellar, she has them scattered all over the winery’s estate. She keeps bottles in her personal kitchen, in the winery’s kitchen cupboards, in the guest house, and even has a few tucked away in the corner of the barrel room. Three of her bottles have already spoiled under poor storage conditions, and she’s permanently lost at least two magnums of Cabernet.
Her story proves that no collection is too small for a wine cellar tracking app. Even if you think that you can remember where every bottle is, it only takes one moment of forgetfulness to lose it forever to spoilage or heat damage. That’s why it’s important for every collector to have a wine cellar tracking app, whether they own 50 or 50,000 bottles.
Why You Need a Wine Cellar Tracking App
A wine cellar tracking app has three major benefits:
It Prevents Spoilage
Although some of the finest Bordeaux can last for decades in a cellar, that doesn’t mean that you can store any bottle of wine for as long as you want. Even Lafite and Le Pin have limited drinking windows–once they’re past that peak drink-by date, the wine will begin to plateau (and sometimes decrease) in value, and will be less enjoyable to drink. For wines that are meant to be drunk young, this is an even bigger problem, since these wines will quickly begin to spoil and taste like vinegar the longer they sit in the cellar.
When you store your wine without creating a wine cellar tracking app to keep track of your bottles, you risk forgetting which bottles you own, or losing them behind stacks of wine cases. I’ve known collectors who have found several spoiled, dust-covered bottles of Pinot Grigio in the back of their wine cabinet which were pushed back there over the years.
It Improves the Quality of Your Collection
Not only do wine cellar tracking apps prevent your bottles from getting lost (and spoiling), they stop you from buying too much of the same kind of wine. You might like to focus on just one region or varietal, however, if you don’t keep your cellar organized, you might end up buying duplicate bottles without intending to. A case of 2013 Aubert Chardonnay is a great investment, since you can store and sell a handful of the bottles and drink the rest as the years pass. Yet, even though this vintage is fantastic, you might not want to have two or three cases of it in your cellar.
Like stocks, you should also diversify your investments to protect yourself. Buying too much of the same kind of wine is risky in terms of resale, since there’s no guarantee that the wine will continue to grow in value over the years. Seeing all of your wine on a wine cellar tracking app helps you decide whether you really need eight more bottles of, say, 2012 Shafer.
It Helps You Find Party Wines
As the host of a wine tasting party, you don’t want to spend 20 minutes digging through your cellar trying to find your bottle of 2002 Moet & Chandon Dom Perignon Rose. A wine cellar tracking app includes information about every bottle’s location–you simply look for the wine in the app, go to its listed location in your cellar, and grab as many bottles as you need. It’s also easier to plan a party with an app, since you can make a list of the wines you want ahead of time without stepping foot inside of your cellar.
Types of Wine Cellar Inventory Methods
When you create an inventory system for your wine collection, it’s important to customize it for your needs. Each method has its pros and cons, which you should consider before you make your final decision. You’ll find four main types of wine cellar tracking apps and systems, each designed with a different purpose in mind.
Wine Rack System
To use the wine rack method, you’ll organize your wine by producer, varietal, vintage, or any other category that makes sense for the collection you have. Next, install wine racks in your cellar according to the number of spaces you’ll need under each category. For example, if you own 200 bottles of Rhone Syrah, and just 10 bottles of Tuscan wine, you’ll want more rack space for your Rhone section than for your Italian section (though you’ll want extra spaces in both sections). Group bottles of the same category in their rack sections, then as you add new ones, place them in their designated sections. This method does not use a wine app or spreadsheet of any kind.
- -You don’t have to upload your wine’s information into an app
- -It takes less time to set up than other inventory systems
- -You could run out of rack space for certain categories
- -You have to put your bottles away immediately
- -It requires constant maintenance
- -Bottles in larger sections will still be hard to find
- -You can’t see your wines unless you’re in your cellar
- -It’s not easy to access information like drink-by dates or tasting notes
Before online wine cellar tracking apps existed, collectors used spreadsheets to keep track of their bottles–some still find this method the most comfortable. To use this system, you’ll need either a large spreadsheet book, or an online spreadsheet tool. Next, inventory all of your bottles into the spreadsheet, noting the producer, vintage, region, varietal, location, drink-by (or sell-by) date, and location in your cellar (e.g. rack number three, four rows down, two bottles across). You should also leave space for taking tasting notes as you drink the wine, and you should delete, erase, or cross out wines as you sell or drink them. We should note, though, that wine apps do much the same thing, with a cleaner and easier user interface.
- -You know the exact location of every bottle
- -You can take tasting notes
- -You can see your wine at a glance
- -With online spreadsheets, you can sort wines by producer or region to find it quickly
- -You can’t search quickly in a paper spreadsheet
- -You have to remember to delete wines that you drink or sell
- -You can’t always access your spreadsheet on-the-go
- -The system can be overly complicated and time-consuming
Online Wine Cellar Tracking App
A wine cellar tracking app like VinCellar is similar to a spreadsheet system in that it can keep track of your bottle information and location, however, it’s usually more convenient to use. To start, the app often already has a library of wines, so you don’t necessarily have to enter the wine’s information by hand for every bottle–you can just search for the vintage in the app and add it to your virtual collection. It’s a good idea to look for a wine app that offers other services, like an option to buy or sell your wine through the app, look up market prices or drink-by dates, and upload your tasting notes.
- -You don’t always have to manually enter information into the app
- -You can take it with you wherever you go
- -It’s easy to see all of your bottles and their corresponding locations
- -You can buy, sell, or write tasting notes within the app
- -It’s extremely low-maintenance
- -You still have to remember to delete your wines as you drink or sell them
- -Not every wine will be in the app’s library
Barcodes Combined with an Online App
This method requires you to create, print off, and attach a barcode to every bottle you own. This might seem like a time-consuming process, however, for a fee, you can hire an expert to visit your cellar and inventory your wine for you. You can also buy a barcode printer and scanner if you prefer to do it yourself. Apps like VinCellar integrate seamlessly with a barcode system already. When you scan the bottle, the wine app pulls up all of its information. You can then sell, drink, or move your bottle and update this information in the app.
- -It has all of the pros of the wine app method
- -Updating information is faster
- -You won’t forget to take tasting notes because the app sends a reminder after you scan the bottle
- -Experts can print labels and inventory your collection for you
- -It can be time-consuming to get started with this method if you do it yourself
- -Not every collector will find barcodes useful
Your Collection Determines Your Method
One collector’s ideal wine cellar tracking app could be another collector’s nightmare. Before you choose your inventory method, consider the following.
If you own fewer than 50 bottles…
You might find a rack system or wine app most effective. For you, it will be most important to make sure that your bottles aren’t hidden behind one another. Because you have so few bottles, this should be easy to manage. A wine app can make this easier, but a racking system alone will be similarly effective, as long as you maintain it. There’s usually no need to list your wine’s location in the app, since it should be easy to see where everything is. Stack your wine no more than one bottle deep on the racks.
If you own between 50 and 100 bottles…
You’ll need more than just a racking system. Use a full-service wine app that includes a library of data, along with space where you can list your wine’s location in your cellar. Your collection is still small enough that you can manually add or delete wines from the app as you drink and sell them without feeling overwhelmed or forgetting to update your wine in the app. You can also use a spreadsheet for this type of collection, but a wine app will be less cumbersome.
If you own more than 100 bottles…
A wine app is the best method for keeping up with a moderate to large collection. A spreadsheet will grow far too large to manage manually. You might consider using a barcode system for your bottles as well, since it can be difficult to remember to update the app’s information whenever you move bottles or drink them. Chances are, you’re constantly buying, selling, drinking, and shifting your bottles around, and this process is much easier when you can scan your bottles.
How to Barcode Your Wine Collection
Wine racks, spreadsheets, and wine apps are relatively self-explanatory, whereas barcoding your wine collection is a bit more complex. Because this method is the one that we recommend most for collectors with a large number of bottles, we’ve broken down the steps for building your own barcode system:
Additional Barcoding Tips
- -Your wine organization expert can also help you decide which bottles to keep based on market value or how likely you are to drink the wine within its drinking window
- -After you scan your bottle, VinCellar will pull up the wine’s information and ask you whether you want to take tasting notes
- -From here, you can update information such as bottle location and notes, or you can take that bottle out of circulation
- -If you own fewer than 100 bottles, you can barcode your wine yourself, but collections in the hundreds (or thousands) usually need an expert’s help
- -Once your system is set up, you don’t have to hire an expert again–you can print future labels off yourself
- -You should keep a small barcode printer and a scanner in your cellar–when you buy new bottles, print off a new label
Your Inventory Should Be Clear and Simple
The only inventory systems that I’ve seen fail are those that are overly complicated or require a great deal of maintenance. Generally, it’s better to put in the work up-front to create a long-lasting system that you can set and forget. Even if systems like wine cellar tracking apps and barcodes seem complicated and time-consuming at first, they’ll be worth the extra effort later because they practically maintain themselves, allowing you to relax and enjoy your wine drinking and collecting experience.
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.
At Vinfolio, we help our clients buy, sell, store, and manage their most
treasured bottles of wine. But in our spare time, we’re just a group of
passionate and slightly obsessed oenophiles–we love sharing a great
glass of vintage Champagne, followed by a Burgundy, and then a
Bordeaux, to get things started. We’re always obsessing over the latest (and oldest) vintages, and we want to share that knowledge and passion with our readers.