Posted by: David Stewart | January 11, 2012

Technology tools for wine lovers

“I like to think about the life of wine. How it’s a living thing. I like to think about what was going on the year the grapes were growing; how the sun was shining; if it rained. I like to think about all the people who tended and picked the grapes. And if it’s an old wine, how many of them must be dead by now. I like how wine continues to evolve, like if I opened a bottle of wine today it would taste different than if I’d opened it on any other day, because a bottle of wine is actually alive. And it’s constantly evolving and gaining complexity. That is, until it peaks, like your ’61. And then it begins its steady, inevitable decline.” – Maya, “Sideways”, 2004

I have heard that more than 90% of wine is consumed within 48 hours of purchase. That sounds about right to me.

For the other roughly 10%, why resist temptation and keep your wine longer? There are a couple of reasons:

  • Good wines are not consistent from one year to the next. I did this little experiment one time with a group: I poured a glass from a 2007 Belle Pente Pinot Noir and set it next to a 2008. Same exact vineyard and grape type, just one year separated them. The visual difference was stunning – the 2007s are might lighter in color compared with the super dense 2008s, which was a very special year in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. So if you find a year or a vineyard that you really like, buy up as much as you can afford so you will have it on hand. Some time later, you likely won’t be able to find it.
  • As the character Maya from Sideways says, wines change in character over time. Many nice French and American wines do not actually taste very good when they are young. They taste “closed”, which means they can taste acidic and not very interesting. After a few years of resting, they become much more drinkable.
  • Even a good tasting young wine will taste better if you let it settle for a couple of days to a week.
  • Not every wine should be saved a long time to be appreciated. In fact, most white and rose wines should be consumed within a year of purchase, with the possible exception of Chardonnay or white Burgundy. But still it’s nice to have a few around that you like.
  • Everyone goes through times which are lean financially, when you need to cut back on expenses – I know I have. In those times, it’s nice to know that you can still enjoy something that you have saved from better times.

Most of us don’t need a lot of help keeping track of the wines we have saved. We don’t have hundreds or thousands of bottles in a massive show-off cellar. Maybe we just have a “small gathering in a cabinet,” as with Miles in Sideways.

But if you are like me, you find yourself wandering the aisles of your supermarket’s wine section, and you see what looks like an amazing deal on a wine you think you might want to buy. Is it really the one I enjoyed? Can I afford to add this to my little collection?

A lot of old winos use the paper log method or put something into a spreadsheet on their computer or they just don’t bother.

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Last summer I switched to CellarTracker, which is a free service on the web, and I have strongly recommended it to my friends. Besides tracking your own wine, it’s a social networking thing, so it leverages the universe of 180,000 users and nearly 20 million bottles of wine being tracked, as .

The things I love about it:

  • Entering new wines is much faster than the spreadsheet method – if you type in part of the name, the system uses its huge and growing database to guess which wine you are talking about. Normally lots of information is already populated, making data input quick.
  • When it displays the contents of your cellar, the alphabetic sort is “smart” about wine names. This means that “Domain Serene” is sorted with the S’s, but “Domaine Drouhin” is sorted with the D’s. Cute!
  • There are some terrific apps for your personal device which accesses the same data. The Android and iPhone app I use is called “cor.kz” which gives a nice phone-friendly access to the device. On the iPad, the regular web interface is fine, or I also like “CellarVU” which is a lot of fun.
  • Wines are shown with suggested drinking windows. This means you can get immediate advice on whether you should drink that bottle of Cabernet now or leave it in the box for a few more years. (In general, I think the concept of predicting drinking windows is suspect at best, but it’s kind of fun anyway).
  • Tasting notes and ratings from members of the community on your wine. Also of mixed value since everyone’s palate is different, but still it’s fun.
  • Keeping track of bottles consumed. Many times I am interested not only what I have now, but what I used to have.

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Although it is free, there are some other cool features which become available if you pay them some money. (There are suggested donations based on the size of the cellar being tracked).

  • Wine Value – I don’t have good records for how much I paid for most of my wine. No matter – CellarTracker will attempt to set a value based on its vast database of information other members have entered.  This isn’t perfect, because I have wines which date back to the 70s and 80s and there are no recorded values for these. But it’s kind of fun to have them tell me how much it thinks my wine is worth.
  • Ratings from third-party services – I’m not a huge fan here, but there are some additional ratings available

There are other features which I don’t use much, like all kinds of reporting features. I can strongly endorse and recommend CellarTracker for any size collection of wine.

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Responses

  1. Hey! This is a test comment! I am doing a workshop on WordPress blogs and wanted to demonstrate the commenting feature. Hope that’s alright.

  2. It is nice to serve as an example sometimes… if it’s positive!

    Hi, Anne…


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