Okay, last but certainly not least – how do you use your wine cellar now that you have it built and filled with wine? That probably sounds like a silly question, but you would be amazed how important it is!
That’s because you need to keep track of what is in your cellar, when you want to drink the wines, and how often you want to do that. If you don’t, only bad things can happen – drinking wines too soon, forgetting about wines that get too hold, or not even being able to find a wine when you want it!
First things first – how to organize them in your cellar so you can find them. My approach is pretty simple. I divide the wine racks up by country and region, and then organize the wines by vintage (oldest on top). And on the capsule of each bottle, I put a little white sticky with the name of the wine on it. You can buy them at Staples or other such stores, and there is enough room to put the vintage and name of the wine.
Next – a recording and tracking system. Now, there are fancy programs out there, and even apps for your smart phone. But I have stuck with the one I have been using “before the internet” (yeah, I’m old).
It starts with a simple one page recording template. The top half has room for all the necessary information – name of the wine, purchase date, price, and any reviews you have seen about it. Up in the right hand corner I then write the date(s) I want to drink the wines (and I mean plural, as I always buy at least two bottles of each wine). This comes from the reviews I have seen of it or my best guess based on experience.
The second half of the page has horizontal columns with space to record the date the wine is drunk, any food that was eaten with it, the occasion and – of course – my own personal tasting notes. Usually I have room for 4 – 5 tastings, even though I rarely have more than three bottles of each wine.
Now, once filled out, the template joins a whole bunch of others in a series of binders in my office, organized by country and region. You could fill all these out on-line and keep them on your computer as well, and it would work just as well. But, call me old fashioned, I like to have them all together in a binder. It serves a secondary purpose as well – it is a diary of my life! Because many times my cellar wines come out on special occasions (good and bad), so all those memories aren’t lost.
Okay, so the wines are catalogued – what next? Well, how about when to drink them! That’s when the little numbers on the top of the wine recording/tracking documents come in handy. In a separate binder, I have individual sheets of paper organized by year (2013, 2014, etc.) and list all the wines – from the tracking document – I am supposed to drink that year. Every January 1st, I go through the binders and pull out the templates with the wines for that year and clip them together. It is kind of a nice way to start the year – a bit of reminiscing (from reading the templates and tasting notes) and anticipation of the great wines to come.
And then you drink them! How often depends on how much wine you have each year to drink. I usually have 2 – 3 bottles a week, because that is what my cellar generates based on its size and composition. But even if it is just one a week, that is still pretty nice.
Once you drink a wine, by the way, record the notes and check it off. That’s another way to keep track of things.
So there you go! Crude, perhaps, but also simple, cheap and I have found it very effective. I rarely forget about a wine, and am able to keep track as certain wines age and make adjustments if necessary.