One of the biggest tricks behind maintaining a wine cellar is keeping track of all of the bottles in it, especially those wines - like 2004 Brunello di Montalcino, 2007 Châteauneuf-du-Pape or pre-arrival 2009 Bordeaux (when they arrive) - that you probably won't be drinking for quite awhile. My dad handwrites the wines in his collection on a grid that hangs by a clipboard next to his wine fridge, and I know dozens who track their wines with simple Excel spreadsheets. Simple? Sure. But what if that list is at home and you're at K&L trying to remember if you bought one or two bottles of that awesome, early-drinking Burgundy that Keith Wollenberg is touting?
Cellar tracking software has been evolving in recent years, from computer-based programs to online ones, but with the increasing popularity of devices like the iPhone and the iPad, I think mobile cellar trackers are the way to go. That said, I think most wine lovers would agree that they'd rather spend money on wine, rather than on cellar tracking software, so any "app" needs to be free, or at least inexpensive.
I tried out a handful of free and low-priced iPhone apps, including iCellar, Cellar and Vinocella, but the one I personally liked best was Velvet Vine. If you're just getting started, the free Velvet Vine Lite version allows to you add wines to your cellar on your iPhone, iPad or iPod or on their website, and it easily syncs between the two. If the wine is already listed in their community database, this process is super-quick. If it's not, then you can create a new winery or wine from scratch. This is much easier in the iPhone app than on the web, where the user interface isn't as friendly and you end up having to reenter information a couple of times (they say they're working on this). You can add your own bottle shots, too. With Velvet Vine Pro ($3.99) you have the added ability to create wishlists, search your cellar, add tasting notes, tasting events and generate reports to export to Excel or Numbers. It's easy to change quantities if you buy multiple bottles and subtract a single bottle when you drink it.
Of course, the app isn't perfect. Because the database is community-generated, there a plenty of wines and wineries (particularly international wines) that aren't in the system yet. This means building your cellar can be a bit time-consuming, and this seems to be the biggest complaint from users. A lot of appellations aren't listed either, but I found their support team quite responsive. An email to add "North Coast" to their list of appellations was answered in just five minutes, and support inquiries were responded to with equal speed. Overall, Velvet Vine is a great start to keep track of all your wines, from Owen Roe to Almaviva to your vertical of Langoa-Barton.
What's your favorite cellar tracking app?