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Organizing a Wine Cellar

The organization of a wine cellar can be very personal and dear to your principal. Being an Estate Manager’s EA, this is something that I have carried out on multiple occasions. Here are some of my personal preferences which you can consider when organizing a wine collection.

By Varietal

A tried and true approach when organizing a wine collection is to do it by varietal. Grouping the wine by differentiating the Chardonnays from the Gewürztraminers is a good choice, especially if there is a larger collection at hand. Since wines are clearly marked on their labels, this is easy for anyone to set up and for the staff or principal to find what they’re looking for.

By Region

Organizing a wine cellar by region will uncover the countries or provinces  the wine collection is from. It can also peak conversational interest in a subtle way by possibly showing all the places your principal has been to, or the regional style they enjoy. They might like the idea of viewing and sharing the collection that way when entertaining.  Incorporating this process could also prompt more exploration into other regions.

By Age

As a wine collector, your principal might be waiting for a certain date to open a bottle. To avoid opening a reserved library wine by accident, the wine cellar can be organized by age. The dinner and weekend choices in an easier place to reach, while the aging wines sit further out of reach. We put ‘drink now’ wines at eye level with ‘aging’ wines down low and extra inventory up high to be lowered into ‘now’  when a vacancy is made in the rack. I read a blog on written by Jane and she suggested arranging the wine from oldest (close to the ground) to youngest (higher off the ground), which can make a difference in terms of keeping old wines cooler.

By Occasion

We have a sub-category of organization ‘by occasion’ to make it easy for the Chef or Butler to know what to pull. Organizing the collection in alignment with whether it’s going to be opened for cocktails, dinner parties, or kept for tasting down the road is really helpful. A good idea is to have a separate shelf for chosen ‘special occasion’ wines, for birthdays or anniversaries so the principal can walk in and choose something special for a guest without much searching, and an easy to access gift shelf for host/ hostess gifts.

By Price

Organizing the wine cellar by price can prove to be useful in terms of aging and value. It is common that more expensive wines are expected to age well in comparison to those on the less expensive side. Being aware of where the ready-to-drink collection is, and where the library wines are hiding, ensures easier handling and avoids unintentionally opening something too valuable.

Label / Tag

Once you have sorted the collection, it’s best to label everything. Placing tags on the neck of each bottle with the type of wine, the vintage, and the name of the winery can help when finding a specific bottle or vintage without disturbing any of the bottles at rest.

There are many different choices for wine bottle tags, from simple white plastic tabs which you can label yourself, to fancy computer-generated tabs decorated with red or white grapes to differentiate types.

Log and Inventory Application

You’ll not only want to keep track of all wines but also know their exact location by vertical and horizontal row number. A wine log in the cellar is great for the Butler or even the principal to help find what they need and tick off the bottled that have been removed. Even better, an iPad with a tracker app can be kept up to date easily. (We’ve found it best to keep the iPad in an Otter box , or other waterproof housing to keep it safe from the humidity in the cellar.) The cellar tracker application allows you to:

  • Track each vintage
  • Know the earliest it should be opened
  • Know the date it must be consumed by
  • Reviews about the vintage

Coming to conclusion, there is no such thing as the “right” way to organize a wine cellar, the possibilities are endless. The only “wrong way” is to not organize it at all, so as long as your approach is pleasing to your client, you can consider it the “right” way I suppose.

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