Vinfolio Manager of Collector Services Derek Cienfuegos has seen his fair share of messy cellars. As a professional cellar organizer, Cienfuegos regularly meets wine collectors who already have three cellars packed full of wine, and are looking to invest in a fourth just to keep up with the bottles they’re buying. It’s easy for collectors to feel overwhelmed by the amount of wine they purchase every year, but adding more storage space can be like curing a cold with a bandage; collectors think they’re helping, but they aren’t getting to the root of the real problem. Spring releases are fast approaching, and collectors need to have their cellars in working order before new bottles arrive. Commit to a New Year’s resolution that’s worthwhile: starting, and sticking to, a cellar organization plan that really works.
Boxes, Boxes, and More Boxes
It’s a scenario most wine collectors experience at least once a year: you see an incredible deal on pre-arrivals for 10 cases of your favorite Leflaive, and buy them up without a second thought. When you bought the wine, you had plenty of space in your cellar. Now, a year later, your cellar is filled with other vintages you simply had to own, and now 10 cases of Leflaive will arrive on your doorstep at any moment. This, according to Cienfuegos, is one of the most common wine cellar organization problems collectors experience, and it leads to a massive pile-up of wine boxes. When collectors don’t have room for new wine cases in their cellars, they stack the crates close to the cellar’s entrance, never getting to open them. But if you’re expecting 120 bottles of wine to arrive this spring, you need to have space for them in your cellar now to avoid major problems. This is especially true if you received any gift bottles over the holidays. They all add up over time, causing your cellar to go over its capacity.
And that’s a problem. As Cienfuegos says, “When a cellar becomes over-capacity, then it becomes non-functional.” He suggests using space-saving wine containers for the bottles you absolutely must keep, but bottle visibility is the main goal collectors should work toward. Rather than squeezing as much wine as possible into a tight space, you should start by assessing your cellar’s ideal capacity, and then count the number of bottles you own. You can either estimate these numbers for yourself, or ask one of Vinfolio’s experts to visit your cellar and count your bottles for you. An expert can help you determine the maximum number of bottles you can own before visibility and accessibility start to become problems. Once you have this number, count your bottles once every quarter to keep yourself on track.
Drinking Wines Get Left Behind
An unorganized wine cellar creates a trickle-down effect on your entire collection; as the wine boxes pile up near your cellar’s entrance, you may not be able to take more than three steps inside your cellar, let alone find the bottles you want to drink right now. When a cellar isn’t well organized, newer bottles tend to pile up near the front of the storage space, while older bottles (that are fast approaching their drinking dates) get shoved toward the back, just out of convenient reach. Cienfuegos says he has had to dump out gallons of expired wine in his time as an organization specialist.
To avoid dumping out your own wine, make the wine’s drinking dates a primary part of the method for organizing your wine cellar. First, go through every bottle of wine you own, separating them into four piles: bottles that are already spoiled, bottles that are drinking now, bottles that will drink in two years or fewer, and bottles that have more than two years left in the cellar. Next, stack the bottles that are drinking now closest to the entrance of the cellar so that each label can be easily seen when you first walk inside. Stack the bottles that are close to drinking just beyond them. Set the newest vintages toward the very back of the cellar, and cycle them from back to front as you drink the bottles closest to the entrance. If you’re not sure when your bottles will be drinking, Vinfolio’s organization experts can help. They can upload all of your wine onto VinCellar, which keeps track of the ideal drinking dates for every vintage based on wine critic reviews. Vinfolio can also set up a digital map for your cellar, making it easy to find the exact bottle you’re looking for without digging through your cellar.
Impulse Buys Come Back to Haunt Collectors
No matter how organized your cellar is right now, it’s impossible to keep it streamlined if you’re not tracking the number of bottles you buy and sticking to a budget. Cienfuegos says he meets a lot of young collectors whose tastes evolve over time, and some of the first bottles they’ve bought no longer interest them. One year, a collector might favor Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon, and the next year he prefers New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Instead of buying as much wine as possible, buy a small amount of your latest vintage craving in case you change your mind down the road. As Cienfuegos says, “Do you really need 200 bottles of California Cab?” Consolidation is the cornerstone of a successful collection.
Once you have a hold on your cellar space and you’ve organized your bottles by drink date, you should consider the wine themes you want to highlight in your collection, and thin out your cellar if you have wines that don’t fit the theme or aren’t worth keeping. Ask yourself, “Do I truly enjoy this wine right now?” or, “Will I likely still love this wine five years from now?” This is where an outside perspective can help. An organization expert can go through every bottle with you, giving you insight into whether the bottles are worth keeping. It’s important to be as present and active in the third party organization process as possible so that the expert understands the emotional value of bottles that might otherwise be worth little on the market. Many collectors get emotionally attached to certain bottles, especially if they remind the collector of a loved one. The overall rule is to only keep bottles that have an emotional connection, that are valuable, or that you love to drink. If a wine doesn’t fully meet one of those standards, get rid of it.
Organizing Your Wine Cellar: Third Party Services Are Worth It
Having a home cellar can be a costly and frustrating process, especially as you try to find the best climate settings for your wine. A good option is to invest in third party storage that gives you unlimited storage space in a secure, climate-controlled location. Vinfolio’s storage option lets you keep as many bottles as you would like in Vinfolio’s warehouse without the hassle of breaking down wine boxes and cycling through bottles. Having third party storage gives you freedom to buy bottles whenever you want, especially if you’re the kind of collector who loves the shopping process. This type of service works best for collectors who have large, unwieldy collections, but those who collect on a smaller scale also find the service useful to keep their wine safe and at the ideal temperature.
Even if you prefer to keep your wines in-house, having a third party help you with organizing your wine cellar can save you time and money. A collector who spends $1 million a year on wine shouldn’t balk at the idea of paying $1,000 on cellar maintenance. Most wine organization experts charge most collectors about $3 per bottle to get a cellar in working order, but these services are well worth the added cost. A collector who spends $3,000 getting his cellar organized by an expert is often saving at least $3,000 in spoiled wine costs, and a lot of time and frustration digging through his cellar. And the less time you spend looking through your cellar and keeping up with the drink dates, the more time you have to track down the best wines in the world for your collection.
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. Call our experts today to have us store or organize your collection.