In times past, every wine bottle received and sold—along with all the pertinent information about the bottle and its cellar location—was logged in a huge, grumpy book. The wine cellar book.
Wine collectors and beverage program managers repeatedly dragged it out to flip through it, squint at it, and scribble information in its tiny rows and columns.
It’s all very romantic, like learning how to decant wine. But it’s terribly inefficient in the light of current technology. Bottles can slip through the cracks—inventory shrinkage isn’t just for businesses, you know. Optimal wine aging times are over or undershot. Kicking your way through all the crates piling up and trying to find a specific bottle can start to feel like you’re stuck in a purgatory eternally looking for lost car keys.
Thankfully, that most challenging aspect of wine collecting has been made easy and digital. Meet the wine cellar app.
There are myriad wine cellar organization apps out there solving all the wine world’s cellar management issues. Having trouble remembering bin locations? Want to be made aware when a wine is at peak drinkability? There’s an app. Need help with wine cellar lighting suggestions? There will probably be a wine cellar app for that soon.
To modernize your cellar, enhance your collection, and save the lives of lost wines languishing in a forgotten cellar corner, you should sharpen up your wine cellar management with a wine cellar app. But what’s the best wine cellar app out there? Here’s what to look for in a good wine cellar app, the benefits of using one, how much they typically cost, and what we think the best wine cellar tracking app is.
What to Look for in a Wine Cellar Tracking App
There are three basic aspects to all the best wine cellar management apps. They correspond to the flow of how your inventory information enters, is used by, and exits the app. First, you’ll need basic bottle information tracking. Then you’ll need a quick way to add and remove that information with a scanner. And finally, you’ll need to reap the benefits of the data your cellar management is creating.
Basic Wine Information Tracking
The best wine tracking apps keep your collection organized, up-to-date, and informative. When you add a bottle or a case, the more information you can add, the better. Here are some fields to look out for:
- Price (if you’re a business)
- Cost (if you’re tracking your expenses)
- Tasting notes
- Optimal drinking window
- Rack or bin location (if you have a cellar)
- Timeline (date added and date removed)
You don’t need specifically-created fields for all of these. If the wine cellar app has a space to input your own custom information, that’s good enough. Always err on the side of more information. With as much information as possible associated with each entry, you’ll be generating a lot of useful data as you manage your cellar.
A Barcode Scanning System
Initially setting up an organized wine cellar is all well and good, but a big part of wine cellar management is coordinating its moving parts. The best way to efficiently manage a wine collection is with an inventory scanning system.
By pairing each bottle with a barcode, information only needs to be entered into the system once. When you first introduce the bottle into your wine cellar organization app, you’ll input its information into the system. Then you’ll associate a barcode with that bottle in the app, and adhere the barcode to the bottle. From then on all you need is a quick scan to add or remove bottles—and their associated data—from your wine cellar inventory.
Most scanning systems are either apps or handheld scanning devices. Ideally, a wine cellar app has the option to use both. The wine cellar organization app itself for quick one-off or low-volume usage and a handheld scanner for lightning-fast, high-volume usage.
Once information is input and scanning is in place, wine cellar management becomes a succession of quick scans instead of a wrestling match with a physical cellar book. You’re saving a ton of time and making your life a lot easier. But it doesn’t end there. Every piece of information you enter and scan is recorded. And you can draw some valuable conclusions with it.
Wine Cellar Management Analytics
Ever wonder how much Burgundy you drank over the last few months? Or what wines you tend to open more during certain seasons or months? Knowing those would be interesting and likely help you build a collection that you can rely on to provide the types of wines you’re looking for exactly when you’re looking for them. By providing you with historical usage and purchasing rates, a wine cellar app makes this possible.
But there’s another great benefit of running some analysis on your cellar management. You can optimize it. After taking inventory, you’ll know if you have any missing or broken bottles. You'll also know average inventory and all the benefits of that. It’ll be easier to account for everything you have and square that with your past numbers. Then you’ll know exactly how efficient your cellaring operation is and where the leaks are.
Spatial Wine Cellar Management
A wine cellar database app that can adequately manage a cellar must have the ability to either build a graphical representation of your cellar or associate each bottle or crate with a rack, bin, or wine storage cabinet.
While a graphical representation sounds great, it’s hard to pull off and oftentimes harder to use. It’s widely regarded and easier and faster to pair a bottle’s or case’s entry in your wine cellar app with a cellar rack number. And that’s as easy as inputting the information initially—just like you did with the varietal, vintage, etc.
Benefits of a Wine Cellar Tracking App
The three primary benefits of the best apps for wine cellar management are knowing exactly when your wines are their best selves, being a deliberate, strategic purchaser, and turning your cellar from a pile of crates into a streamlined wine-finding paradise. And not having to use a bar inventory spreadsheet (which, hey, some people do enjoy).
Makes Every Bottle the Perfect Bottle
Winemakers create wines to bloom into their full flavor profiles and aromas at a certain time. That means every wine has an optimal drinking window, and drink-by date, that needs to be tracked. Opening the wine before or after the window, while not the end of the world, will short you the experience the winemaker intended you to have. That said, if a wine has far exceeded its optimal drink-by date and you notice very obvious wine faults (like very high tannins in wine), then it is the end of the world. For the wine, anyway.
Accurately tracking your wine keeps these windows on your radar and puts wines with approaching drink-by dates in front of you. More and more, wine collectors are organizing their collections primarily by drink-by date, and many wine tracking apps can help.
Focuses Your Purchasing
Seeing every bottle you own in an app gives you a high-level view of your collection. Especially if you’ve smartly organized it all by theme.
You know what styles and vintages you have a lot of and what types of wine could be better represented. Most wine enthusiasts and collectors want well-rounded, deep collections that can be tapped for the perfect wine at any given moment. If you know the makeup of your wine collection intimately, you’ll be better prepared to replace styles when they run low, fill in thematic gaps, and generally improve the quality of your collection.
Makes Your Collection Accessible
A wine cellar organization app also helps you locate bottles rapidly. You don’t have to comb through racks to find a bottle while your guests wait upstairs. You don’t have to run your hands up and down bins looking for a special bottle you just want to show someone as you walk them through your cellar. You just straight up don’t have to waste time rummaging around in your cellar. Use your wine cellar app, get the location, and head right there.
Also, unorganized wine storage tends to accumulate newer purchases in the front of the cellar. That leaves older purchases to languish in the back of the cellar marching toward their drink-by date.
An organized cellar makes everything accessible—for slipping into optimal drinking windows to finding what you need on the double.
How Much Does a Wine Cellar App Cost?
Wine cellar apps are software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms. That means you’ll pay for a subscription to use their software. Subscription fees range from around $30 a month for bare-bones inventory trackers (i.e. glorified spreadsheets) to hundreds of dollars a month for more sophisticated wine inventory management platforms.
Best Wine Cellar App for Your Money
“Cellar management” doesn’t immediately bring to mind an individual wine collector or a home wine collection. But the same talents and tools that wine bars and wine program managers use, and the same things most sommelier levels cover on their sommelier exam, are needed for home wine cellar management. That goes for mastering wine storage temperature, too.
The benefits are numerous. You’ll improve your collection with targeting purchasing strategies. You’ll get to consistently experience wines during their optimal drinking windows. And you’ll be able to quickly track down the perfect wine just when you want it.
So much of this is easy with BinWise Pro. It’s professional-grade wine inventory management software with wine cellar database and organization functionality that can be perfectly scaled down to private collections. Master sommeliers and restaurants across the country use it. And it’s just at home in a cozy personal cellar as it is in a world-class wine cave. Countless professionals will say it’s the best app to track your wine cellar.
By using BinWise Pro’s companion scanning app, BinScan, wine collectors get the best of both worlds: an agile wine inventory scanning app with the option to bring in the big guns with a handheld barcode scanner for medium- and high-volume collections.
Book a demo and take a no-commitment tour of BinWise Pro to learn how it leverages industry-grade wine inventory tracking tools and techniques for individual wine collectors at a fraction of the price.