ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

I need a method to tag wines in my cellar that at a glance will tell me to drink or hold, its origin and varietal, rather than checking reference charts. Some sort of color-coding without a lot of clutter will work. Our problem is when there is some unexpected occasion or urge and a quick trip to the cellar is necessary, we should be able to quickly identify a ready-to-drink varietal from any country. Any suggestions?

—Larry K., Caledon, Ontario

Dear Larry,

Yes! Stickers are your friends. I get different-colored little dot stickers from an office supply store, and put green (for “go”) stickers on the bottles that need to be drunk first, and red ones (for “stop”) on the bottles that should not be touched under penalty of death. There are also larger round stickers that fit on the top of a wine capsule that you could probably write a code of letters or numbers on if your handwriting and organizational skills are up to the task. Members of WineSpectator.com can also print "shelf talker" labels (which include scores, tasting notes and drinking windows) using the Wine Ratings Search and Personal Wine List tools.

As far as identifying varietals or countries, my cellar is somewhat organized into region, and then wine type within that. I put the rarest bottles out of immediate reach, so I’m not tempted by them (or disturbing them). Of course, an organizational scheme is limited by how much space you have to work with, so if all else fails, Post-it notes work fine to describe which section is which.

—Dr. Vinny


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