Starting a Home Cellar

Shifting from being simply a consumer of wine to a collector can be very rewarding. The challenge is how to get started.

The team, at Australian Liquor Online are great fans of awarded wine maker Robert Bowen’s “Bowen Code” approach to cellar management. The information below is based on the Bowen Code approach.

There is one golden rule when starting a cellar. Buy more wine than you drink.” Rob Bowen

In Summary

  1. Why use the Bowen Code
  2. Pick a location for your rack
  3. Chose a racking system
  4. Adopt a bottle lay out plan
  5. Use bottle neck tags to identify wines in your rack
  6. Use a phone app like Cellar Tracker to track your collection
  7. Sign up to one of our Collectors clubs to receive a regular supply of wine along with neck tags and suggested storage location
  8. Drink wine when it is at its best
  9. Watch your cellar increase in value.

     1 Why use the Bowen Code

     If like me, you had no idea where to start with a home cellar, you are not alone. Most people we speak to simply impulse buy wine or buy wine base on perceived value, number of medals and price range. With no real plan that looks further than 1 month ahead.

     We follow the Bowen Code because of its ability to answer these common questions about home cellars

    • What do I buy
    • How many wines should I have in my cellar
    • Should I follow a theme, such as representative wines from regions
    • How do I keep track of my wines
    • How do I know the best time to drink each wine
    • How do I select wines that are likely to increase in value
    • What makes an ideal cellar environment
    • Are there proven ways to store and identify wines
    • What makes a good wine collection.
    • Even if I have a cellar. How do I decide where to place each bottle
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    2 Location

    Find somewhere in your house that has the following conditions. In this priority order. Don’t get too hung up on ticking every box.

    • Space for your wine rack
    • Consistent temperature throughout the day and year
    • Away from direct sunlight
    • Ideal temperature range of 15 C to 18 C
    • Out of reach of young children (or teenagers !)
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    3 Storage System

     You can store wine in its original cartons in a cupboard if you must. However we recommend you use a racking system of some sort. You should aim for a system that can ultimately hold at least 240 bottles or more. You don’t need to have this capacity to start with.

    You may like to consider a Bowen Code Wine Rack see here for details

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    4 Follow a bottle layout plan

     You’ve got a rack. Now where do you place your bottles?

    We like this approach

    Assume you have a rectangular rack. Divide it into three broad drinking windows sections. Drink Now, Store Mid term and Store Long term. Approximately 60% Now, 30% Mid and 10% Long

    Sort by value. We like to keep our less expensive bottles closer to the top of the rack and our valuable bottles at the bottom. Lets face it. Its harder to grab a bottle from the bottom of the rack than the top, so you are less likely to accidently grab an expensive wine by mistake.

    Within each section we like to further group bottles by one of the following

    • Region,
    • Grape Variety
    • Colour

    So your layout may look like this


    You may choose to split each main section by wine colour or by region or by grape variety.

    Diagrammatically, the suggested location of a wine could be represented like this. Mid priced drink now wine suggested storage location left side of the rack middle row.

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    5 Bottle neck Tags


    Efficient visual identification of wines in your cellar is a must. Bottle labels are usually obscured when in racks. A tried and tested solution is the use of bottle neck tags.

    We love the Bowen Code bottle neck tags. They are quite simply the best system we have seen that ticks the following boxes in a way that is easily to see in a darkened cellar and when you have had a couple of wines already.

    • Drinking window (is it ready to drink)
    • Is it a red or White wine and what grape variety
    • What price range
    • What quality / rating
    • What region

    You can buy Bowen Code bottle neck tags here


    The Bowen Code Bottle Neck Tag is designed to be either hand written or to use the Avery label template we provide as a downloadable file for each wine.
    See here for an example downloadable labels file.
    The above example of a “Chapman Grove Sauvignon Blanc 2016”

    Is rated as a Low to medium cost “$$” out of 5, 3.5 stars out of 5, with a drinking window from 2017 – 2019 So a drink now wine. Identifiable as a white wine, variety Sauvignon Blanc “SAB”

    The last line of the Tag shows the Bowen Code for this wine

    "AUS MGR 2017-19 SAB $$ 3.5* "

    The BowenCode summaries the key elements of the wine.

    Country, Region, Drinking window, variety , Value and Rating

    Using the Bowen Code this wine could be classed as a drink now wine, of medium $ value. This wine should be stored in the left most part of your rack near the middle or top rows. we would show this suggestion using the diagram below.

    We provide cellar location suggestions for all the wines we sell

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    6 Phone App – tracking what’s in your cellar


    There are a lot of wine phone apps out there. We like and recommend Cellar Tracker. Cellar Tracker has over 2.5 million wines in its database, including all the wines we sell.

    It provides access to professional and community reviews.

    Look up a bottle by scanning the bar code; the label or the Bowen Code bottle neck tag bar code.

    Its cost effective, only requiring a voluntary contribution. You decide what to pay.

    Allows you to see tasting notes on your phone along with a range of other information about your collection including its increasing value.

    CellarTracker web page

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