Cellar Management Software
Whether you consider your collection an investment asset or a passion project, knowing what you have and where to find it is paramount. There are few greater tragedies than forgetting about a special bottle only to find it years later when it is past its prime (although you should never dispose of such wines without tasting them, as they can often surprise you). Having a system that easily shows you everything you own and provides relevant data about your bottles and past experiences is not just practical but also fun, as it brings your collection to life in a novel and engaging way.
There are a few options on the market today, but as COO of InVintory, that is the platform I know best and can unequivocally recommend, having initially encountered it as a collector searching for the best option for my own wines.
InVintory offers easy to use and highly functional tools available on iOS and web for tracking wine collections of every size. There are three tiers:
Whether you choose to invest in a robust system or continue with an Excel sheet is entirely up to you. The important thing is to find a solution that works and that takes the complexity out of managing your collection so you can focus on enjoying it.
Aspire (free): Add unlimited bottles, track experiences, and share your collection with others.
Prestige ($99/year - see below for a discount code exclusively for Vinosity readers): Access market values, cellar analytics, scheduled deliveries, and our proprietary 3D software, VinLocate, with which you can build custom sections of your cellar and visually find any bottle at the touch of a button.
Opus ($300/year, plus a one-time cellar design fee, POA): A custom solution for large collectors who want a full 3D rendering of their unique cellar, accessible from an iPad at the cellar door, like a smart home system for your wines.
Just as different building materials require different tools, different corks require different corkscrews. While you will most likely have a favourite corkscrew in your drawer, different styles serve different purposes.
A Basic Corkscrew
For younger day-to-day wines, or wines with agglomerated or synthetic corks, get a corkscrew you are comfortable using regularly. There are many options in this category - electric corkscrews, wing corkscrews, or large corkscrews with big levers. My pick would be the simplest of the bunch: the classic double-hinged “waiter” corkscrew.
How to use a waiter’s corkscrew
A Corkscrew for Older Bottles
For those nights when you want to open an older bottle that has a natural cork, you’ll want a specialized tool. Older natural corks can be brittle, and the last thing you want is cork debris floating in your Dujac.
The classic tool here is the Ah-So, a handy two-pronged tool that you shimmy into the bottleneck on either side of the cork. It is snug enough that once all the way in, you can just pull the cork out with a bit of twisting. This avoids any issues from drilling through a weakened cork. Basic Ah-So’s are quite affordable so a great option for the budding collector.
For the more serious collector, it is worth investing in a Durand. This unique tool is specially designed for old bottles. It is a combination of a corkscrew and an Ah-So, offering multiple points of contact to remove even the trickiest corks.
Even with an Ah-So or Durand, corks can sometimes disintegrate. If this happens, do not despair. If the cork breaks in half, do not push the remainder in. Remove what you can and re-insert your corkscrew into whatever is left. Sometimes you can pull it out and no one would be the wiser.
However, if you do end up having to push cork into the bottle, or wind up with cork crumbles in the liquid, pour it through a fine metal mesh strainer. Do not use a cheesecloth or coffee filter as these can affect the flavour of the wine.
- Use the foil cutter to detach the foil underneath the lip by guiding the attached blade around the bottom of the lip with your thumb or finger.
- Hold the bottle at an angle (if you’re just learning, you can put it on the table), and insert the tip of the worm (the screw) into the centre of the cork, giving a firm twist to secure the first thread.
- Screw in the rest of the worm about ¾ of the way, without piercing the bottom of the cork.
- Bend the hinge of the corkscrew and push in the first notch so that it rests on the bottle’s lip. Holding that notch firmly in with one finger, use the other hand to pull the lever up and raise the cork as far as it will go - probably about a centimetre.
- Release the first notch and secure the second notch on the bottle’s lip and repeat the motion to pull the cork the rest of the way out.
Decanting wine exposes the liquid to oxygen, ‘awakening’ the aromas that have been sitting under cork and, in red wine, softening the tannins. Decanting also enables you to separate the liquid from any sediment. There are few worse things than taking a sip of wine and ending up with a mouthful of debris.
Many wines, especially those of lower quality, will not need to be decanted, but for high quality young wines (especially reds and some whites) that have not yet integrated, and for older reds that have thrown a sediment, it is a vital step.
A note of caution: too much oxygen exposure can rob delicate older wines of what little aroma they have left, so you want to be particularly careful when decanting wines with a lot of age. For this reason, it is useful to have two types of decanter on hand - one for oxygen exposure and one for sediment removal in older wines. The latter should be fairly narrow to limit the amount of air contact. With older wines, your objective is gentle oxygen exposure, so do not “spin” the wine around the decanter.
How to decant
Our first podcast guest was renowned collector Francois Audouze, who has developed a proprietary method for slowly oxygenating very old bottles. Listen to the episode here or read his description.
- For reds with sediment, rest your bottle upright for at least 24 hours to allow the sediment to settle on the bottom.
- Hold the decanter at an angle so that you’re pouring the wine onto the neck and letting it flow in, rather than splashing it directly onto the decanter’s base. This will allow you to more easily see when you’ve hit the sediment.
- Slowly start pouring, keeping the base of the bottle below the neck and manoeuvring the decanter to allow this.
- Stop either when you have about a centimetre of wine left in the bottle, or when you start to see tiny flecks of sediment appear in wine flowing into the decanter.
There is some debate about whether or not glassware can enhance the flavour of wine. Yet even if you are sceptical, presentation is part of the wine experience so it remains important to invest in some nice stems.
However, that does not mean you have to break the bank on the finest crystal. The only “absolute” is that your wine glasses have a stem. Stemless is certainly convenient, but the stems are not just there for aesthetic purposes. They enable you to hold the glass below the bowl and avoid warming the wine with your hands (on that note, you should never hold a stemmed wine glass by the bowl either).
Machined vs. Mouthblown
There are two main types of glassware: machined and mouthblown. Machined glasses are, as the name implies, made by machine. These tend to be more durable (often dishwasher safe) and thicker. Mouthblown glasses are made by hand and are thus often more delicate. For machined glasses, Riedel’s Vinum line is an excellent choice. For mouthblown glasses, Zalto remains the industry standard (and is my personal favourite).
Glass Shape and Size
While glass manufacturers offer an array of shapes and sizes for all the main varietals, it remains another point of debate whether you really need the full range. In my opinion, you do not.
Some connoisseurs are perfectly happy to use a “universal” glass for every style, such as the one by renowned Master of Wine Jancis Robinson. This is perfectly acceptable, but my preference is to have a few options. Which ones will depend largely on the styles you enjoy most, but I suggest a Bordeaux glass for robust reds like Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah, a Burgundy glass for Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo, and oaked Chardonnay, and a Universal glass for all other styles, including Champagne (although I do have Champagne flutes as well). If you frequently enjoy sweet or fortified wines, designated glasses for those options is also worthwhile.
Just as every wine collection is a reflection of personal taste, so are the accessories that accompany it. Have fun browsing the various options available to find the corkscrew, decanter, glassware, and management system that works best for you, keeping in mind the above tips to ensure they serve their intended purpose.
InVintory is a wine cellar management app for wine collectors to easily track and find their bottles. This blog is the third in a series by COO Yule Georgieva on how to build and manage a wine collection.
Vinosity readers get 50% off their first year of InVintory Prestige - normally $99/year. Visually find any bottle in an instant, see your collection value, and access exciting partner benefits. Use code VINOSITY at invintory.com or download on the Apple App Store. Offer eligible for new subscribers only.