A fresh start. A clean slate. A new, sparkling calendar. This is what January is all about. Now let me ask you one question: Does your wine cellar/closet/storage area reflect a sense of calm, organization, and fresh beginnings? If the answer is a dramatic eye roll, then we have our work cut out for us. No matter where you store your wine or how many bottles you have, this guide will show you how to organize your wine cellar and get you a little closer to wine storage nirvana. After all, how are you supposed to taste your favorite bottles when you have no idea where they’re hiding?
First on the list: purge! Pretend you are organizing your wardrobe—the first thing you would do is get rid of any ill-fitting, ripped, or outdated clothes, right? So many of us receive wine as gifts, and although a gift can be thoughtful, it can also be a bottle of something we don’t really like (some of them might be cheapie wines you thought you wanted during a sale, but then realized later were not your fave). Round up these bottles and put them in a separate area of your house for re-gifting next holiday season. Because one person’s unwanted wine is another person’s treasure.
If you are like me, you have been blindly storing your bottles in a closet and shutting the door. Each time I acquire a new wine, I either a) drink it immediately or b) put it in my closet and forget about it. I know I have a lot of good stuff in there, but exactly how much and where it resides remains a complete mystery. Sound familiar? Shine a light and take stock of what you’ve got. Get a notepad and pen (or laptop with Excel spreadsheet) and tally a comprehensive list of wines by general kind (red, wine, or sparkling). Now divide these wines into groups on your floor nearby table. Fight the urge to drink. It will get better!
This one is totally up to you. You can use separate, wall-mounted or standalone wine racks for different wines, or you can do what the pros do: Install long, horizontal rows of wine holders along your wall, creating a true “cellar feel.” If you have limited space, try stacking upward rather than outward. Whatever you do, be sure that the hardware is installed securely (California is waiting on The Big One). Heck, even the poorly utilized space above your washer and dryer can work just fine, as long as you can find hardware to fit. A note on temperature: By now you know that heat is the enemy of all wines. Try a cool, dry, dark space, like a closet, attic, basement, or large cupboard.
Break out the markers! Buy a big bag of paper tags with string (craft stores have them in spades), and tie a tag around each bottle neck. This way, you don’t have to rummage through all of your bottles every time you have a dinner party. You can simply pick up the tag and read all you need to know about the wine. Include the vintage, varietal makeup, and winery of origin on the tag, as well as any other fun notes important to you (maybe the tasting room attendant said this mourvedre would be great with lamb, or you want to note a special wine you purchased with an old friend). Now, the harder part: Within your groups of red, white, and sparkling, you can begin to make rows or clusters of subsets by varietal, region, winery—really, whatever makes the most sense for your collection. If you mostly buy similar red Bordeaux blends, then perhaps it’s more important to have the winery and tasting notes available to you than the actual varietal makeup of each wine.
Take a moment to pat yourself on the back for an afternoon well spent (depending on how much wine you have, it could be an entire day). Now, you have adequate room, both physically and mentally, for your growing wine collection. Doesn’t it feel good to know that if and when you stumble upon a new varietal—perhaps Verdelho or a unique rose—that you’ll have space to bring it into your home? The better part: At your next dinner party, you won’t be gone for eons as you “find that special bottle.” Instead, you’ll be right where you should be: pouring wine for your friends and enjoying the moment more fully. Now that’s a New Year’s resolution I can get behind.
This blog was written by Hayley Thomas, food and wine writer for New Times and PasoRoblesWineries.net. You can reach her at [email protected].
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