Random thoughts on the world of wine, presented in no particular order.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The care and feeding of Cellartracker, part 1, managing your collection.

Cellartracker.com is an online wine database; it allows you to track your wine collection, make reviews on wines you've tasted, see what other people think of wines before you buy... basically, it's a wine-and-computer-geek's paradise.

So how do you use it?

Well, after setting up an account, you might want to start adding the wines you've already got on hand into your cellar.  It's easiest to do so by searching for the wine in the search box; make sure that the dropdown menu is on "wine (all data)," and that the "only show mine" checkbox is unchecked.  So, for example, if you have a bottle of Château Pontet-Canet 2005, that should be your search term (and, don't worry about any circumflexes, accents, or umlauts -- you can type the letter in as normal, without the mark).  In the case of Pontet-Canet 2005, the search will return three wines -- Hauts de Pontet-Canet, Pontet Canet, and Pontet-Canet Kosher.  

Click on the name of the correct wine, and Cellartracker will bring you to the specific wine's page.  Here, you can see other user reviews of the wine, add copyrighted reviews (from, say, Wine Spectator, or Wine Enthusiast), make notes, and generally work with your database .

To add a bottle (or more) of wine to your cellar, either click under "My Inventory," or "add a new purchase."  I prefer to record purchases, as that allows me to track the cost/value of my wines, so we'll treat this hypothetical addition as a purchase; if you prefer to simply add inventory, the process is similar.

On the purchase page, there are options for number of bottles, size (the default is 750 ml, but if you've got a magnum or half-bottle, or some other size, find it in the dropdown), cost per bottle, store (this should be initially empty, but there's a text-entry box to add a new store; you can set a store as a default under "my account" on the "display options" tab), purchase date, delivery date (useful for wine bought online, or a futures purchase), any order notes, a storage location box (default is "cellar," but if you store wine in another place -- for example, keeping Champagne in the fridge -- enter that location in the text box, and you can choose it later in the dropdown.  You can set a default the same place as a default store -- "my account," in the "display options" tab), and bin (if you've got a large cellar that is subdivided by bins...).

So, enter the appropriate information, click "add new purchase," and lather, rinse, and repeat with the next wine.  If you've got a large collection, this could be a weekend-long project (ahh, but think of the fun you can have, ferreting out bottles, remembering where you were and what you were doing when you got them....).

Now, that's what you do when everything goes right.  What if you can't find a wine you own?  Well, that's when it's time to add a new wine... which we'll get to tomorrow.

When you're done adding wines (and making notes on wines that aren't in the cellartracker database -- and, yes, you may well find some, even as complete as the database is), you should be able to see a long list of your wines when you click "my cellar."  Some of them will have drinking windows (right now, that'll be the average of what other cellartracker users thing the drinking window of the wine is), some will have a rating denoted as something like "CT88.4," which would mean the average user rating of that wine is an 88.4 -- and that there may well be reviews that describe the wine (some folks only add numerical ratings, so not all wines with a CT score will have full reviews).  From this main cellar page, you can do a number of things; sort your wines by varietal, vintage, producer, and appellation in the "summarize by," dropdown.  You can even print a wine list!

Tomorrow:  Adding new wines to the database, and consuming wine... from the database, I mean -- I'd hope that you know how to consume wine, in general!

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