But before we get into the concept of wine cellar management and its possible relative worth to you, we need to talk about the related but different topics of Wine Storage and Tasting Notes.
These are not the same things as managing your wine cellar.
Wine Storage: K.I.S.S. (Keep is Simple, Suckah!)
Most of us aren’t planning on aging classified growth Bordeaux for 15 to 20 years. We’ve got wine that we plan on drinking in the next week, month, or year or two. This doesn’t require a long, drawn-out treatise and list of rules for storing all of those new bottles of vino you’ll hopefully be getting as holiday gifts.
Just follow a few simple tenants and you (and your wine) should be golden:
- Minimize exposure to light, heat, and vibration (get the wine off the top of the fridge, STAT!), and don’t store the wine in direct sunlight.
- Try to find the place in your home that has the least year-round temperature variation (you want the temperature to increase/decrease gradually, not spike up or down).
- Avoid areas that are too cold (under 50 degrees F) or too hot (over 70 F).
- Go for an area that allows you to store the wine on its side to keep the cork moist.
Tasting Notes: You need to take then. Yes, even you.
- If you want to up your Wine IQ, you have to take tasting notes. Tasting notes are essential to help you understand what you like (and, just as importantly, what you don’t like) in wine.
- You can make this as complex or as simple as you like, but I’d advise starting easy – easy as in Pen & Paper version 1.0. A small and portable notebook and a trusty pen are all you really need for this to get started.
As your budding wine collection grows, you will be tempted by all manner of progressively more sophisticated and complex offerings for both your wine storage and your tasting notes. Now we get into the strange and expensive world of Wine Cellar Management…
I don’t manage my wine cellar. In fact, it could be argued that my cellar manages me sometimes. OK, most of the time. Anyway, here are the reasons why I don’t actively manage my wine cellar:
Hey, the economy is in the crapper – who’s got massive spare change set aside for an annexed basement room with mahogany wine racks, custom humidity controls, and designer lighting? Not me, baby. Custom wine cellars are massively expensive, and you probably don’t need one anyway.
My cellar has cheap IKEA wine racks to hold the bottles that aren’t still in their shipping boxes. In fact, one of my racks is leaning precariously ever more to the right, and I’ve yet to fix it. Wine cellar management solutions are also getting more and more expensive, especially the software versions – this is in part because in order for these to be useful, they need to pull from large databases of wine entries.
The point here is to ask yourself this: Do you spend any real quality time in the area where you store your wine? I don’t – so I’d much rather put my money into the wine itself, not into its storage or management.
I offer by way of example RUSH front man Geddy Lee, who not only plays kick-ass bass and is still writing rocking tunes well into his 50s, but also has a massive underground cellar (he’s partial to Burgundy and cru Beaujolais), housing thousands of wine bottles in his Toronto home. What method does Geddy, as an avid collector, use to track his wine?
If you feel compelled to track your wine purchases and tasting notes using some sort of managed system, I recommend going for one of the free solutions available on the web. This approach has the benefit of keeping a history of you wine adventures, and allows you to interact with dozens or even hundreds of other wine lovers who might be trying some of the same wines as you.
- If you get your wine from many sources, then it’s hard to beat CellarTracker.com– it’s free, and has over 65 thousand users who have logged nearly 11 million bottles of wine.
- If you source your wine primarily from one of the many great on-line wine clubs (check out the sidebar on the right for links to a few of these), then I’d recommend using their websites to track your tastings and stored wine bottles. Most of the on-line wine club websites have this option, along with social-networking features to let you share your tasting notes and comments with other club members.
I wish you many hassle-free hours of not really managing your cellar, but better managing and increasing your enjoyment of wine. And, of course, many more KISS and RUSH references!
(images: epicurious.blogs.com, kissonline.com, musicintheabstract.org)