How to organise your wine cellar

By Amelia Ball

If you have a wine collection that’s lost its way, cellar consultant Luke Campbell shares five steps for getting it back on track.

    For many wine lovers, bottles stored at home can quickly get out of hand. Regardless of a collection’s size, systems can fall over, boxes can build up and the wines can prove hard to navigate. So, where to start? Vinified director and cellar consultant Luke Campbell shares his advice.

  • 1. Get ruthless

  • Luke says the first thing to do when sorting through your wines is cull the bottles you’re never going to drink. “Maybe somebody gave you a bottle of something you don’t enjoy, or perhaps your tastes have moved on,” the sommelier says. Whatever the case, box them up and put them aside. “Give them as gifts, share them with people who love them or give them to someone who is going to enjoy them more than you. You might not love it, but someone else will. Take these wines out of your collection!” This will free up much-needed space to properly organise your remaining wines and also make room for the new bottles you will really want to drink. 

    2. Organise by variety

    Luke advocates grouping wines together by variety. “I always do this because I want to taste, compare and contrast varieties from different regions. If you put wines together by vintage, you lose that learning power of your palate,” he says. This system will not only help when you’re searching through a collection, but also identify any lacking or overstocked varieties. 
    “Then you have to look at the logistics of how to stack your wine fridge or cellar or wherever you store your wines. Put the oldest ones at the back, away from the light and out of reach, and the youngest ones to the top or wherever is most accessible – where people are likely to pull something out that’s not too important.”   
  • 3. Develop a system 

  • People should always log their wine so every bottle is recorded, whether that’s in the Halliday Virtual Cellar, an app or a simple spreadsheet. It should track the wine’s name, winery, region, vintage, price and drink-by details, and also have room for your own notes and other insights. From there, some people use necktags or sticky labels on the bottles to convey these details at a glance. Knowing how much a wine cost, its rating and drink-to date can be helpful when rifling through wines and deciding what to open. It also means any friends and family who have access to the wines should know what they can – and can’t – touch.

  • 4. Make some decisions

  • If you’re in the early stages of building a wine collection, Luke suggests first considering the most critical factor. “You have to ask yourself if you actually like aged wine,” he says. The characters in aged wine aren’t always to everyone’s tastes, so seek out museum releases and back-vintage wines to decide whether cellaring is for you. It may mean you can instead create an inspired collection of versatile wines that are ready to drink now.
    Luke also suggests people should start drinking any single bottles they have within their collection – pending their significance. “You really need a minimum of three bottles – one to know what it tastes like, two to know when it’s changed, and three to know when it’s developed,” he says.   

  • 5. Restock diversely 

  • Most wine collectors will have at least a few favourite brands and labels they buy year in, year out, but beyond those wines, there’s always room for diversity. It’s a rule that Luke encourages among his clients when organising their cellars, and one that he also lives by, having seen too many people’s palates change over time and no longer enjoy the wines they have stocked. “If I’ve drunk through my Clare rieslings, for example, I try to resist the urge to buy those same wines again and instead go for rieslings from New Zealand or Great Southern because I want to educate my palate further,” Luke says. “I want to be drinking diversely and not restocking like for like so I’m not always going back to the same wine.”  

    Luke Campbell is the director of Vinified.