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My humble wine ‘collection’ has been located in various places. It has been crammed into a 1930′s cocktail cabinet, lain on a dust attracting bookshelf and stuffed under the bed. Presently it occupies a large brown box in a very inconvenient location next to the dining table. It props up the internet server and the telephone, nicely mind.
You can surmise that my wine cellar is not what you could call large. Rivalry abounds amongst wine bloggers on the size of their collection. Several weeks ago I enjoyed a rather delicious and entertaining dinner in Windsor with two such bloggers (Rob of the Wine Conversation and the diminutive American blogger Joe of 1WineDude. Each had hundreds of wines between them gracefully laid in purpose built cellars and racks. I came clean and owned up to the (pitiful) number of wines in my cellar – ten, ten individual bottles.

You can’t count yourself a wine lover without a substantial collection of wine – Rieslings from obscure Mosel estates, personal discoveries from the depths of the Languedoc, a couple of ‘special’ cases picked up while touring Tuscany or prized icons from California or Australia – all should have a place in your racks. Well they aren’t in mine.
Actually I do have an icon wine, a bottle of Penfolds Grange picked up for a song. It retails for over £100 these days but I brought a single bottle for £45. My brown box also houses three bottles of port, a posh bottle of something white from Alsace, three different clarets, a bottle of Sauternes and a sweet white fortified oddity from South Africa. Hardly something to impress a fellow wine aficionado.

The reason is simple. I just cannot keep wine for very long. A bottle on a rack is just screaming to meet Mr. Corkscrew. Impoverishment also rules out the purchase of cases of wines that benefit from extended ageing. A majority of wines I buy or are sent as samples are designed to be drunk within a year or two anyway.
It seems hardly worth recording this little collection but blogger talk invariably moves from friendly size-boasting to cellar management systems.
The ability to store and compare drinking experiences and recommend that a specific wine is ready to drink is one of the delights in using a common wine database alongside other enthusiasts. If I want to check if my solitary bottle of Grange is ready to be opened or destined for another year or two in the box then a quick perusal of one of the online cellar management systems available should supply all the info I need. Some of these systems even link direct to merchant websites enabling a ‘cellar top-up’ with just a couple of mouse clicks. Deep joy.

I picked on Adegga and Snooth to link to via Spittoon you can tell they are at the cutting edge of geekdom by their made-up web 2.0 names.
Adegga is run by a team based in Portugal; who tell me that a new, more modern design is imminent. Adegga is pushing a universal numbering system for wines. So the delicious Hugel Tradition Gewurztraminer 2006 is AVIN8979734608252. Not something that trips of the tongue but aims to be the book categorization standard of the wine world. The system hooks into various blogs, mine included, to automatically update its database with new notes and ratings.
Snooth is a similar system, run from California by an Englishman but comes with a more funky design. It is grappling with the complexities of world-wide currencies but is generally more dollar-focused.

The benefit of these systems linking in with wine merchants (you can also leave reviews and experiences of merchants) is great when, say, a recommendation for a South African Sauvignon from someone in Hong Kong can link you quickly to a UK website to buy your own stocks (hence the attraction of all to use Adegga’s AVIN numbering system). Sadly though not many UK merchants, although the list is growing, seem to have picked up on this obvious and free sales line.

All well and good for the geeky wine lover but do more general wine drinkers actually use these internet platforms to find, locate and record wine purchases and cellar contents? More to the point does anyone actually have a cellar that needs recording?

9 Comments »

  1. Dylan says:

    I just stumbled upon Snooth the other day and have to say that I love the design aesthetic of the site. I’m sorry about your cellar’s inadequacies, I am not at that level myself–however, cellar or not, you still have the passion for wine. A great spirit for exploration will trump a great collection any day.

  2. I just bought a small wine storage fridge (Baumatic BW28 — came in just over £100) to keep a stupidly expensive case of Burgundy I bought somewhat by accident, and Snooth has been great for keeping tabs on where things are in the fridge (it’s too compact to see labels easily, and I don’t really want to be disturbing the wines too often) and where they are in terms of maturity. The developers also seem to be very active in responding to user requests, and wine buffs themselves, which makes a huge difference.
    It is a bit light on the UK end of things, but I think that will change when the retailers wake up, and when more UK users join and start agitating. I wonder if there’s anyone on Oddbins we could email?
    Friend requests on Snooth are very welcome!
    Robert Johnston

  3. Philip James says:

    wines don’t last too long in my house either – they are generally stored in the bottom shelf of the ‘pantry’, by which i mean cupboard in the kitchen. We have a few more in the office, which are used for our tasting events, but even here, the average lifespan is only a month or so.
    By the way, thank you for the mention. Just one change – Snooth is based in NYC. We do have an employee in San Francisco, but the HQ, if we can call it that, is in New York.
    Keep up the good work.
    Philip

  4. Douglas says:

    I am delighted to have leafed through your collection first hand!

  5. Andrew says:

    Next time Douglas I might actually open one! ;-)

  6. “…but do more general wine drinkers actually use these internet platforms to find, locate and record wine purchases and cellar contents? More to the point does anyone actually have a cellar that needs recording?”
    I’m trying to answer that question myself. There are lots and lots of great wine geeks using and abusing Adegga but what about all the other wine lovers out there? What are the things they want that we should have?

  7. Greg Baker says:

    One of my continual problems is keeping track of not only the wine I buy for at home but also the stunning bottle I may have had in a restaurant or wine bar, or the bottle I took along to a dinner party which I wish to remember.
    I have used another ‘Web 2.0′ offering called Corkd for a while (note the obligatory lack of vowels al la Flickr) but it was just a little too ‘lightweight’ and not flexible enough.
    I’ve recently started using CellarTracker to keep a note of my purchases, deliveries and consumption; this is a truly impressive service with (hundreds of) thousands of wines already in the database and a fairly easy interface to add those that are not.
    It’s features are too numerous to list but one useful one is the printing of wine lists which I can use to keep track of what I’ve got and where it’s kept while ‘offline’.
    I’m by no means an ‘expert’ but do appreciate my wine and have finally found a system that allows me to track, store and review wines. Take a look!
    (By the way, despite the gushing praise, I don’t work for CellarTracker :) )

  8. Andrew says:

    I didn’t like the look of CellarTracker but I know it has a lot of users and fans; you also have to pay I believe…

  9. Greg Baker says:

    True, the design leaves a lot to be desired, but I suppose people use it for functionality over looks. There’s yet to be a combination of the features of CellarTracker and the design of Corkd and the like.
    They welcome donations of any amount to access features such as automatic cellar valuations, but suggest an annual fee of ~$30, unless you have 1000s of bottles!

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