How should I organize my wine cellar?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

My wine collection is sorted by region, but every time I add to it, I have to move wines around. Would it be simpler to organize it by grape variety?

—Kandace, Washington, D.C.

Dear Kandace,

Even if you have a plan on how to sort your cellar, reorganizing now and then is probably going to happen as you continue to purchase your wines. We’ve all been there. In fact, I think it’s healthy to occasionally go through and really assess what you have, and maybe do a little “Does it spark joy?” purging.

For me, the most important thing was to separate the “Here grab a bottle, drink now” section from the “Don’t touch, for real” section. As much as I like to show off the bottles that I’m proud of, it makes more sense to keep them up high or down low so they won’t be handled often. I also believe in using tags, either hung from the necks or affixed to the top, to identify them so that's it's not necessary to disturb them to see what they are.

After that, I think you could go in a few directions. One is to start by separating them by type—reds in one section, whites and bubblies in another. You could also start by separating them by wine region. Or, as you suggest, you can sort by grape variety.

Which way should you start? I think it depends on what your biggest category is. If 90 percent of your cellar is composed of Cabernet Sauvignons, I’d probably start there, and within that section, keep the ones from similar regions together. If you’ve got a little bit of everything, like I do, then maybe just start in more general categories of “white” or “red” and within that, group the similar varieties together.

There’s really no wrong way, but I do think it’s important to have some sort of inventory system so you don’t forget about wines before they are over their prime.

—Dr. Vinny

Collecting Storage Cellars Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

What effect does wind have on wine grapes?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the many ways that wind can influence a vintage.

Oct 14, 2019

Is it OK to freeze wine and drink it later?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains what happens when wine freezes.

Oct 11, 2019

What's the purpose of the small indentation on the back of a wine bottle, near the base?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains what a "keyhole" is on a wine bottle, and why …

Oct 9, 2019

What's the difference between DOC and DOCG wines in Italy?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains Italy's two most prominent government classifica…

Oct 7, 2019

What wine would you pair with chanterelles?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny shares tips for wine and food pairing.

Oct 4, 2019

I have a hard time describing the type of wines I enjoy. Any suggestions?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers tips for expanding your wine vocabulary.

Oct 2, 2019
WineRatings+

WineRatings+

Xvalues

Xvalues

Restaurant Search

Restaurant Search