My wife is the best, or How should we organize the cellar she convinced me to have built?

At my wife’s urging(!), we finally bit the bullet and commenced construction on a real wine cellar in our basement to replace the tiny passive room in the corner that has a five year waiting list just to get into the racking. Functionality is the key to the design, not a man cave. No fancy tables and chairs and racks for Riedel glasses. Now we have to figure out how to organize the wine as we move it from one side of the basement to the other. The parameters are producer, region and grape, but we can’t decide which is going to be the best way. What do you find helpful in your cellar? Any suggestions would be appreciated, although “throw out all that Cali crap and replace it with Loire Cab Franc from Pierre Breton” will not be helpful. He seems like a nice guy and I own some of his wine, but after all, it’s not Carlisle or Saxum.

Here’s the rough CT breakdown, but it includes hundreds of bottles that should be classified MPD (Missing, Presumed Drunk) and excludes a fair number of OLWIF (Oh, look what I found!). I’ve got a few hundred bottles in OWCs, but not a lot, and I will just store those on shelves. The racking will be two-thirds double deep on one side and one third single deep on the other side, in the range of 1,200 to 1,500 bottles. The cellar is big enough to add more racking, but I am hoping to do a better job of balancing consumption with purchasing in the future.
Principal regions:

US: California 920; Washington 75; New York 31
France: Bordeaux 196; Burgundy 151; Rhone 31
Italy: Piedmont 79; Tuscany 34
Spain: Aragon 33; Murcia 26
Australia: 86, almost all South Australia
Other – Portugal, Germany, Chile, etc. total about 75

By Producer:

I have 6 US producers over 50 bottles each, all of which produce multiple blends, and about 100 bottles of Hospices Auction wines from 2005 and 2006, of which about 80 are red and the rest are white. All other producers are much smaller. I have hundreds of onesies and twosies.

By Variety:

Bordeaux blend: 223
Syrah: 204
Red Rhone Blend: 157
Pinot Noir: 152
Chardonnay: 134
Zinfandel: 113
Shiraz (why is this listed separately in CT?): 43
Grenache: 43
Nebbiolo: 37
Other: Lots of weirdos. Arneis, Mencia, Chenin Blanc, etc.


Keep the stuff you want to drink soon in the front. Keep the stuff you want to hide from your sons in the back. Make sure it stays below 60 inside. That is all!

My opinion is that any organizational plan will eventually break down, particularly once you start running out of empty slots. Eventually the organization starts to become fragmented.

My suggestion: Record bin # when you log the wine into CT. Then if you want organization by variety, click on Summarize by Varietal. If you want organized by region, producer, etc. click on that. Once you select your wine(s) CT will tell you from where to pull. Much easier to maintain and never becomes (conceptually) fragmented.

…and like Brent says, the one physical organization you need is the area that is free reign for the rest of the family.

Why don’t you store your Ozzie fruit bombs at my house. neener

I tend to organize by producer, then have sections of regions for the one-offs I buy. I’ve gotten to the point where I buy predominately from a few select producers, and those producers make more than one wine, so for me it makes more sense to keep all of them together. I’d say keep the organization generic (broad regions instead of specific AVAs), and as suggested, put the bin number into CT when you log the wine. I never look through my cellar for a bottle to pull…I always look through CT, figure out what I want, then go to the bin the wine is in and pull it.

Let me disagree with this slightly. It probably depends on the Bin size that you choose. My usual bin size is 12 (but I have some racks where it is 8 or 9). If the bin is full of wine from the same producer, I have to pull too many bottles to find the right wine (not to mention make sure I have my glasses on). If i’m putting away a case or more from a single producer, I actually try to put different bottlings in different bins if possible. Obviously it’s less data entry to fit each separate bottling into one bin, so I do try to do that - but that does get hard over time when the cellar fills.

But overall, I agree that the approach is to just use CT to find your wine. To me the real decision is to find the bin size(s) that you want to deal with. One bin per slot is insanity to me, but I have read posts here where people do it. I’ve found a case works fine on the upper end, but then I inherited that from using offsite storage in case boxes and it would have been work to change. I have a couple of diamond bins that hold 20 bottles or so, but i’m often throwing multiple bottles of short term drinkers in there anyway.

Seriously: no matter how you organize the racks/spacements - it will get disordered sooner or later when bottles are emptied and new coming in …

1st make a rough sort by region and vintage, but then keep an exact record in your PC (or CT) - with exact rack(row/No. of placement …
So you can always get an overview about your stock - and find it quickly with placcement indication …


I am about six months into having my first real cellar, and I had the same questions about organization that you did.

The advice I got was to consider how you might locate wine in your cellar. By that, I mean do you go to your cellar and look around for something interesting? Or do you look at CellarTracker first (or whatever you might use to track your wine), locate a bottle on your list, and then try to find that bottle in your cellar?

Since my tendency is to go to the cellar and look around, I decided to organize by varietal. My logic was that if I were looking for a certain type of wine, they would all be in the same area.

I did, however, set aside one particular area for wines that might be a little more expensive and/or are not yet in their drinking window.

One thing I did not initially think about that I’m doing now – I keep a couple cases in one bin that are ready to be drunk. These are wines that I can grab without too much thought if friends pop in or to have with a weeknight meal.

Best of luck to you.

Scott Davis

Jay it all depends on how anal you are and how much you want to make managing your cellar an important part of your life, even more than actually enjoying drinking the wine.

If you’re really going to enter every bottle into an inventory system and also the location of the wine, you’ll be spending a lot of time fretting over what I consider useless issues. I broke mine down by the kinds of wines I drink. I.e., “Spain” isn’t a single area so I have Rioja to the right, then RdD a bit left, and Toro up on top, and all the rest in the same general vicinity, but not in any rigid order. Same with France - N. Rhone in one area, S. Rhone in another, Loire on top and all the rest roughly in the same area as the rest of the French wines so I know roughly where to look.

Italy is kind of near the door and it breaks out between Piedmont, Tuscany, and everywhere else. Zins get kept in one area, CA Cabs and blends nearby, and WA slightly away. Hungary is all bunched together. I have zero idea where exactly something is, but it usually doesn’t take me more than a minute to find anything because I know roughly where to look, and I don’t spend a lot of time labeling things.

I put bins on the left and shelves on the right, but if I were to re-do it, I’d probably forego the bins. You get a lot more storage space by using them, but they’re a pain.

Mine’s by variety first. When I’m “shopping” for a dinner wine I start by looking for a Cab, Pinot, etc. Within variety, it’s producer.
The issue with by variety is you have blends & odd-ball varieties. So I have a spot for Bordeaux-type blends, one for other red blends, and I lump together Petite Sirah, Barbera, Carignane, and some of those others where I may have just a few bottles.

Yeah, I learned to leave space for growth plus I’ve moved stuff around over the years as cabs have shrunk while pinots increase, for instance.

Congrats on getting the larger cellar! Like you, mine is functional and not fancy. I have sections for Rhones, Bordeaux, Barolo/Barbaresco, Chianti/Brunello, Cali, Spain, etc. But others are correct that the boundaries shift based on consumption, purchases and drinking windows. I also have a mid-size refrigerator where I keep my ‘drink now’ whites and rose. If I have a producer that I am deep in, I tend to organize those wines by type and vintage.


Note the title of the thread. I have no limits on what my wife can take, it’s our wine. My children understand to ask before drinking. I have a section which is the “no brain damage” section which we all use for wine when we do not care and do not want to give it serious thought.

Don’t you have summer associates? Organizing, inventorying, and data inputing wine cellars is a time-honored summer associate assignment.

Good idea. My summer associate is my son, who just finished his first year at University of Richmond School of Law. But then he would know where everything is. On the other hand, he prefers white wine, so I don’t have to worry about him taking the bottle of da Capo that I bought for my 65th Birthday, or maybe my 70th.


I am six years into living with a brand new cellar. It was built out for about 5000 bottles with racking, bins, shelves, and space for larger bottles. Current size is just over 3200 bottles with a much higher mix of large formats and cases than originally conceived. I use a country/region layout. Since more than 70% of my wine is either French or US, I set aside large areas for Bordeaux, Rhone, and California. I subdivided California into pinot, cabernet, and chard. My tastes and buying habits are changing so in order to keep this schema I need to rearrange things a bit.

What I can confirm over time is that while I tried to stay with that basic organization, as your cellar grows and your level of time commitment to organization drops, I became less focused on having every bottle in the “perfect” location. I use CT to manage my inventory and periodically go into a section and perform a physical count and reconciliation with CT. I than “clean up” the organization structure in the cellar to reflect my current wine purchase/consumption situation - which has changed over time.

I originally reserved more space for Bordeaux purchases. However today I am not buying a lot of wine from that region. Instead I am buying more Spanish and Italian wines so a major shift of space within my cellar is on the horizon. If you are interested in this type of organization plan you need to be willing to put the time in periodically to adjust for your changing tastes and habits. I most likely will need to split off a part of my Bordeaux section for a Priorat area.

Good luck and it is indeed, at least for me, a part of the fun of the hobby.