Wine Cellar Management That Fits Like A Glove


Your wine cellar management system should be tailored to you.

The trick is, to turn the data management of your beloved wine cellar into an enjoyable action. It should be user friendly, sophisticated, yet easy to manage.

The system should use a method that doesn't eat up a lot of your valuable time... one of the few things more precious than your wine collection.

To make your cellar management more efficient, consider:

  • proper wine cellar design
  • efficient wine storage racks
  • software or book for entering the data
  • labeling system
  • wine info
  • tasting notes

Your cellar has wines coming in for storage, and wines going out to be drunk. Some are in for the long haul, while other
wines are enjoyed young. It's always in a state of flux.

Your wine cellar management should be nimble enough to keep up, without making it a chore.

Image of a laptop used as a wine cellar management tool.

What's Better... A Book Or Software?

Wine cellar management can be carried out in one of two ways.

Book

Some of us are just not software geeks.

Sitting in front of a laptop, smartphone or PDA (personal digital assistant) is not everyone's cup of tea...

Instead, by simply jotting the information down into a wine cellar journal by hand, you're good to go. It never goes out of style. Never crashes, with a loss of information. And, can be handed down to the next generation or two when the time comes.

The best wine cellar books have high quality covers and bindings, so they will last for years. Within the cover, there should be a well thought-out spreadsheet for entering the data.

I like the wine journals that leave a space to place a wine label. They really help me remember the wine better. There's just something nostalgic about it. You'll need to get a label remover to get it cleanly off the bottle though.

It's a good idea to put the journal in a prominent and dedicated place just inside or outside the cellar, so that you can access it when coming or going. If you have to search for it each time, the information is just not going to get recorded.

Software

Using software is easily the most popular wine cellar management tool.


Infographic showing a figure choosing one of several App buttons.


But "popular" doesn't necessarily mean that it's the simplest, or the right system for you.


Having the ability to:

  • track wine purchases
  • see the price that you paid
  • view it's current retail value
  • know the wine's drinking window
  • visit your consumption history
  • check out the wine tasting notes
  • read up on wine reviews

and more, is just sooo cool!

However, there is a learning curve...

This can be quite steep, depending on which app you go with. Be aware that it will suck up more of your valuable time. And not all of the above options are available in each brand of wine cellar software either.

Before purchasing, make sure the software has a help section or tutorial to guide you through it. Well-used forums and FAQ's can also be handy when you're just starting out.

Using barcode scanners to read a label that you first print, and then place on each bottle, is an active way to monitor your
cellar.

Having the scanner set up right in the cellar makes it so efficient. With all the info about the wine printed on the label, this is an intelligent approach to doing inventory. You'll have to buy the barcode printer, labels and scanner, but using this system is pretty slick.

Some wine cellar software is free to use, with options that you pay for as you go along. With other brands, you download a
free trial for a short term (usually 14-30 days). At the end of the trial you can buy it if you like it.

Make sure you compare apples and oranges. Some wine cellar software you pay annually, while other brands have a one time fee with free or reduced price upgrades.

One of the most popular free ones is CellarTracker.

For an up-to-date list of other software companies and a rundown of their features, see my wine cellar software page.




What You Need To Record and Why

If you're like me, then you have wines purchased from all over the world. And also wines that you have handcrafted yourself and bottled. These should all be cataloged into the wine cellar inventory.

Keeping track of these wines should be done as soon as possible. Otherwise you'll soon have a small mountain of bottles, cases and totes piling up.

Remembering where each wine came from at that point can be a challenge. And don't forget to enter each wine that has been removed from your cellar and consumed


Image showing a Sketchup model of a wine cellar.Designed by Peter H. using Sketchup!


Proper wine cellar management should include wines purchased or received from:

  • wine clubs
  • fine wine auctions
  • rare wine importers
  • mailing lists
  • retail purchases
  • wine received as a gift
  • homemade wine etc


If you're going to put some bottles into a wine storage refrigerator, then catalog them first. Also, include data on wines
that you might have off-site... like a vacation home or a virtual cellar. That way you have a "complete" picture of your entire collection all in one place.



Is Your Cellar Up to Snuff?

There's no point in taking inventory of your cellar's contents if your cellar isn't built for long-term storage. Your wine will simply spoil way before it's time.

Image of a well-stocked and labeled wine cellar.



If you have any doubts, see my other pages below:


Your cellar should at least meet the proper criteria of:

  • temperature
  • relative humidity
  • dark/UV-free lighting
  • vibration-free storage


This is the standard for wine storage. Your wine will love you for it... and you'll love your wine!

Note:

Be sure to have a backup generator in place in case of a power failure. Yes, they just sit there collecting dust... but then the power goes out and in one fell swoop it fires up automatically, and saves your entire wine collection from a drastic temperature fluctuation!



Smart Wine Cellar Management

It would be nice if all wines came in the same size and shape bottle. It would make storing them much simpler. Although I have to admit, I really like the look and feel of the unique shapes and textures found on many of the bottles today.

Some well thought-out wine storage racks can be your best friend here. They make some of the regular tasks easier like:

  • managing different size bottles
  • moving bottles around
  • adding labels
  • adding bottletags
  • adding barcodes etc.


But first you need to consider how you'd like your cellar to operate. For instance, consider where you would put:

  • older wines at bottom?
  • odd bottle sizes together or separate?
  • white,rose,and reds separated?
  • dry,semi-dry together?
  • sweet,fortified together?
  • storing by country,region,varietal?


Take a walk around your cellar and really give it some thought because efficiency wins the day here. You'll be rewarded
with knowing instinctively where that savory wine should be that you purchased three years ago.

On the other hand, there are some Apps like CellarTracker that feature individual bottle location. Perfect.




Have You Ever Considered Off-site Cellaring?

Wine cellar management can also be accomplished by using an off-site wine cellaring facility. As a stand-alone or in
addition to your home wine cellar.

If you don't have the room or don't care to manage your own cellar then this is an excellent option.

The downside is that there aren't enough of them. When you want to bring some wine home, you don't want to drive hours to get there. Although there are a few companies that do offer delivery.

Some of these off-site cellars rent a space monthly/yearly, and offer other options as well like:

  • inventory
  • packing and transport services
  • delivery service of your wine to your home from the cellar
  • labeling
  • invoice tracking
  • consultation services
  • selling fine wine (through consignment) services
  • wine tasting lounge
  • and even buying rare and fine wines through them


Do a google search for "wine cellaring services" to see what cellars are close to you. Then it's just a matter of finding out what options and protections they can offer you and your wine collection.




Should You Get Specific Insurance For Your Wine Collection?

Definitely! You won't have the coverage with a standard homeowners insurance policy.

Chubb and AIG are two insurance companies that carry policies geared towards wine collections. Just be aware of the difference between individual and blanket coverage. If you possess a very expensive and rare bottle of wine and something happens to it, umbrella coverage may not go high enough on a single bottle to replace it.


Infographic showing wine collection insurance.


Although many of your fine and rare wines are irreplaceable... you will want to purchase again some day if something bad happens. Having your insurance company pay for it, gives you a boost to get started. It's the best of a bad situation.

Check to see that your insurance policy covers you for these misfortunes:

  • bottle breakage
  • label damage
  • extreme humidity or dryness (cork failure)
  • extreme temperature fluctuation (cooling-unit malfunction or power blackout)
  • backed-up sewers
  • earthquakes
  • flooding
  • tornadoes/hurricanes
  • theft
  • fire

As well as anything specific to your location. Also, be sure to check your coverage if you use off-site cellaring services - with your own insurance policy and with theirs.

Seriously consider using a wine cellar monitor as part of your wine cellar management. These little units are the absolute best way to keep you informed on the status of your cellar. The monitor will send you an alarm immediately by cellphone etc should anything change within your cellar. That includes temperature, humidity levels or water on the floor.

Can it save you money on insurance if you use one of these monitors? Maybe. It doesn't hurt to ask.

You will need to have your collection appraised by a certified wine appraiser. A good one can also help with detecting wine fraud and counterfeit wine identification. Yes, it really exists - and in fine spirits as well.

You should also keep your insurance broker updated when you feel that your collection's value has risen. Either through new purchases or market appreciation etc.

Specific wine insurance for your cellar or complete collection is pretty cheap. You can expect to pay around .50-.75 cents per $100 (2018). So a wine collection valued at say $200,000, would cost between $1000-$1500 annually.

Most insurance companies will give you a window (ie. 90 days) to inform them when you purchase fine wine. That way you have complete coverage right away.

Inquire about whether the wine you recently purchased online or through a cellaring company is insured in transit. There
might be:

  • an accident
  • a non-climatized delivery service that you weren't aware of (extreme heat is deadly to wine)
  • or bottle breakage/leakage for some reason

All it takes is a phone call to be sure. Well, let me rephrase that... "make sure you get that in writing"!

There is one other little tidbit. When getting insurance, make sure to read the fineprint, or even better - have a lawyer look it over for you.



Bottom Line...

Collecting, crafting and drinking fine and rare wines is a passion. And, you've put so much into it spanning many years...

But it's an investment too. Proper wine cellar management at home or even off-site cellaring, should respect that.

With all the wines in your collection well documented and accounted for, it's much more enjoyable to focus on your next acquisition. René Rostaing or Giacomo Conterno anyone?


Enjoy.



› [Wine Cellar Management]