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You don’t need a large, specialized wine cellar to maintain a collection of delicious wines. Even if there’s only space for a few dozen bottles, you can still organize them to enhance your buying and drinking pleasure, as well as impress your dinner guests with a restaurant-quality wine experience. Here are a few ideas about how to organize your collection.

Everyday Wines

The largest and most utilized part of my wine collection consists of a few relatively low-cost wines for casual entertaining and dining. At its most basic, this section should feature one red and one white wine – though you could have two of each plus a rosé or sparkling option. I’ve discovered over the years that some people find too many wine choices to be overwhelming and distracting. There’s a hospitable elegance in offering a simple choice between red or white wine and allowing each person to decide how much attention they want to pay to the details of their beverage. You can always indulge curious people with a discussion of varietal, vintage, or appellation if they want more information.

The key to the everyday section of the wine collection is consistency. It’s nice to be able to offer the same wine throughout an evening if your guest is enjoying it. I usually buy my daily drinking wines by case and rotate them as I encounter new deals. So, I might serve a Merlot and Chardonnay one month and switch to a Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc the next, depending on the values I find while shopping.

Special Occasion Wines

Some gatherings are unique, either because of the event being celebrated or the food being served. I like to keep a selection of unusual wines around because you never know when you might need them. For example, some foods pair particularly well with sweet wines like Port or Sauternes. When I cook something Spanish, I often like to serve it with a Spanish wine just like I enjoy Italian foods and wines together. My “everyday” wine selections aren’t diverse enough to match every occasion, and that’s why I indulge my wine buying curiosity by collecting a range of unusual bottles for unusual and special circumstances.

Gift Bottles

Have you ever found yourself accepting a last minute invitation to a dinner party only to find yourself rushing to select an appropriate gift to bring your hosts? I’ve also had family come over for the holidays and realize my gift list was a little too short. These are just a few reasons that your wine collection should include a section of wines for giving. It’s such a relief to do your gift “shopping” at your own wine rack in your own home. I also love this section because it allows me the opportunity to buy interesting wines when I discover a good deal even if I don’t have an immediate plan for it. For more ideas about giving wine as a gift, see our previous post on the subject.

Crown Jewels

At the pinnacle of the collection, you should keep a few special bottles. These might have earned their distinction for sentimental reasons such as a loved one who gave it to you or a vintage of personal significance. They might also be special for rarity, price, or age. In any case, keep these wines somewhere safe where they can age with grace but keep an eye on them to be sure they aren’t neglected.

The most important thing for these wines is to store them properly and label them clearly. I’ll never forget a horror story from a professional I met several years ago. He received a tremendously rare and expensive bottle from his company and returned home one evening to discover it had been opened by an innocently uninformed family member at a casual get together. The real tragedy was that no one liked the wine and it had been poured down the sink. I suggest labeling your wines with paper tags and the words “don’t open,” clearly printed on anything important to you. That way you can make the decision to share those bottles and the time and place of your choosing.

 

Your wine collection, however small, can be more than a pile of assorted bottles with a little organization. Hopefully, you find these suggestions useful. Feel free to make modifications to suit your own tastes and lifestyle. If you have a particularly useful organization practice, let us know – we’d love to hear from you.