What’s the Best Way to Organize Your Wine Cellar?

Some wine aficionados opt instead for the element of surprise

Wine cellar at the 'Tavern of the 7 Juanes'. The famous place sells a great variety of wines in the small colonial village. (Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Wine cellar at the 'Tavern of the 7 Juanes'. The famous place sells a great variety of wines in the small colonial village. (Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images)
By Bonnie Stiernberg / October 11, 2019 6:31 am

Just as there are plenty of different ways to sort books or records on a shelf — alphabetical order, by author/artist, by genre, some combination of the three — wine aficionados have a number of factors to consider when deciding how to organize their wine cellars. Putting reds and whites in different sections seems natural, but do you organize by year? By country of origin? Something else entirely?

A new column by the Wall Street Journal‘s Lettie Teague suggests that the answer for many wine collectors may be “none of the above.” As Teague notes, many cellar owners don’t have any organization system in place (“We buy bottles and put them away,” she writes) and they plan on keeping it that way to embrace the treasure hunt-style element of surprise.

For those who do prefer to organize their cellars, systems range from sorting wines into “ready to drink” and “almost ready to drink” sections, keeping a log of bottles purchased or consumed and using CellarTracker software, which allows users to keep track of their wines with details like tasting notes and date of purchase.

But while Teague notes that her own system is somewhat lacking — “I’ve found whites deep in my racks that were a bit past their prime and reds squirreled away in a EuroCave wine cooler that were almost completely over the hill,” she writes — she says many of her wine-loving friends don’t want to lose the feeling of uncovering a hidden treasure. One likened exploring his wine cellar to “a carnival.” “I’ve always liked waiting to open presents,” he said. “Prolonging the surprise makes it that much more enjoyable.”

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