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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I have a single-setting temperature-controlled wine closet that fits about 150 bottles. Should I keep the reds on top and the whites below, or vice versa? If I have some wines that are ready to drink, where should they be stored?

—Gene

Dear Gene,

How you organize your wines will depend on your inventory and drinking preferences, but I have some tips that might help.

Once you've addressed the basics of properly storing wine, I’d start by doing an inventory, or at least taking a survey of what you have in your cellar. Like many wine lovers, I’ve tucked away bottles that I’ve totally forgotten I have, and have missed opportunities to enjoy them in their prime or with friends who would appreciate them. It can be as complicated as an Excel spreadsheet or as simple as a notebook, but I highly recommend some cellar soul-searching first. You might be surprised at the inventory, and it might spark some “Hey I should probably open some of these” thoughts.

Next, I’d start by separating your wines into at least two categories: the everyday wines that are OK to grab and drink, and the wines that are not to be touched for a while because you want to age them. Pro tip: Let your significant other know where the wines are that they can grab from without causing conflict. I think it’s best to put the rarest bottles or the ones you don’t want to touch out of immediate reach—either high up or low down. It’s also a good idea to keep them out of the way so you don’t keep disturbing the sediment when you’re poking around looking for something to drink.

So that means my everyday drinkers and wines that rotate in and out frequently (bubblies, rosés and crisp whites for me) are kept in an easy-to-reach place and at eye level. That way, I know where they are when I reach inside.

A 150-bottle cooler isn’t a lot of space, but from there, I’d suggest sorting wines by color, region or type of grape. Or, if your collection is deep with your favorite brands or verticals, you can organize them simply by producers. I’ve written before about my penchant for different-colored dot stickers to help me organize my cellar (and help me identify bottles without pulling them in and out). Post-It notes also work, and members of WineSpectator.com can keep track of their inventory using our Personal Wine List tool.

With all that info, let me get back to your specific reds or whites on top question. There’s no scientific reason to organize them this way—even though heat rises, in a functioning, insulated wine cellar, that's not an issue. I think you should organize your collection based on how you plan to drink it.

—Dr. Vinny

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