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An information architect and a wine rack

What happens when an information architect has a lot of wine? She creates a complicated organisation scheme…

photo of donna's wine rack, described in detail in this post

I’ve told lots of people about my wine rack, but hadn’t written about it, so I thought I should show just one aspect of my obsession with organising stuff. People always laugh at me when I tell them about this. Not sure why – after all, I do organise messy content for a living.

So here’s my grand scheme:

  • White wines are on the top half of the rack, red on the bottom
  • Each shelf holds a different varietal (some have more than one shelf)
  • Each shelf is sequenced in vintage order (oldest at the left, newest at the right

That’s OK, isn’t it? Better than some random method.

Well, where I think it tips into the slightly crazy is this… Each bottle has a sticky label on the end that lists where we got it, when we got it and a range of years to drink. It is a little label, so I can’t fit much else.

Oh, and if I got it from a wine club, I tape the tasting notes to tthe bottle.

Actually, this doesn’t sound mad to me— it is just useful. I can look along the row, find an older wine that needs to be drunk right now, and know it will be good. And that’s pretty much exactly what I need my organisation scheme to do.

I could, of course, create a computerised catalogue of it all. I could stack it randomly, and have my computer re-organise it on the fly. David Weinberger would call that a second-order of organisation. Believe me it is tempting, but until I go completely mad or everything turns spime, I’ll stick with my first-order scheme.

And I’ll have a lovely time tidying it every month or so when a new order arrives.

13 Responses to “An information architect and a wine rack”

  1. Gary Barber Says:

    *cough* I can’t store wine at our place, I have not self control. Its gets drunk. Hence I have no “system” besides drink now, drink late (a few weeks). What does that say about me.. I wonder!

    Donna you are just over organised. :)

  2. Ruth Ellison Says:

    I love the organisation system!

  3. Markus Pirchner Says:

    Unless you have underfloor heating I’d rather recommend to put the whites wines on the bottom shelves as it is usually cooler at the bottom.
    Your system seems to work well for a certain number of bottles (about 180?), but how about 750 from at least 50 producers and representing a minimum of 20 varietals? That’s the problem I have waiting in my cellar :-) )

  4. Jonathan Peterson Says:

    Nice. And hardly mad. I’m somewhat similar – especially with the labeling (I buy mixed cases and write price and where I bought on the label then go back and buy larger amounts of stuff that I really like that is a good deal). I only organize the really good stuff and the mixed case purchases, case purchases go in the basement where they stay together.

    Shouldn’t you put the whites closer to the floor where it’s cooler? I really should move my good wine to the basement where the temperature doesn’t change as much – but I worry that without seeing it, I’ll let stuff get too old.

  5. Jay Fienberg Says:

    Since I lost my older wines to poor storage :-( , my wine collection tends to be so small that the labor of going through bottle-by-bottle to find the right one is mostly enjoyable.

    But, with the tea collection, it’s much more complicated! Besides a wider variety of “use cases” across tea drinkers at our place, the tea containers are also less uniform than wine bottles, which complicates the space for any organization system.

    So, I periodically get the “our teas need some IA-help this week” request. Level of caffeination tends to be a major feature of any organization plan :-)

    One of things interesting about these kinds of systems is: the act of finding something is usually also an act of removing it from the system, possibly shifting things around in the process, and then possible placing that thing back. Generally, the organization has to evolve over time, and it’s interesting to think about “time” (or “events”) as one of the information dimensions that’s part of the (dis-)organization process.

  6. Donna Maurer Says:

    Good tip about the white wines on the bottom – I hadn’t thought of that (though the pantry has no heating, is insulated and kept closed, so heat isn’t a huge problem)

  7. Tom hughes Says:

    Nicely done. You can always tell when this kind of thing is done by someone who cares about the subject matter. You enjoy the wine, you enjoy organizing the wine; so a system with some built-in needed (but never mandatory or deadline-driven) maintenance is ideal. Taxonomists take note: love will always beat systematization.

  8. Ben Ryan Says:

    Your system certainly makes sense to me, the only thing I’m curious about, is why you decided to put the whites on top and the reds at the bottom?

    I have the same problem as Gary though and often mistake the vintage as a “Use By” date.

  9. Tony Says:

    What Donna didn’t post here is that this wine rack is now at capacity. I think it’s time to make alternative arrangements – like digging out under the house to make a proper cellar. That will take care of longer term storage issues (including the white/temperature issue) Maybe by posting this publicly Donna will give me the go ahead!

    I promise you will be able to organise both cellars and it won’t cost *too* much ;)

  10. dug Says:

    Hi Donna :-)

    Two wee questions

    Could we adapt a faceted navigation based on usage (good with with fish, nice to drink before eating with snacks etc)?

    What to do with those pesky french folk who blend varieties and don’t label by grape variety?

    Oh, and I can second the cool/warm higher lower thing. Restaurants here in London have started back-lighting their wine rack (nice to look at) which means all the wine is served warm – bleuch!

    Hope you’ve got a lovely chalk cellar well under way


  11. Donna Maurer Says:

    Hi Dug. We could do a faceted system for the digital world, but not the physical. do just that.

    And I don’t have any pesky french wine, but if I have pesky Australian without varietal, I just fit it into a gap ;)

  12. lynn Says:

    we have a miniature version of that, with only one primary ordering system. because it’s located underneath our kitchen counter, we have placed the cheap wines, quick and easy to grab, at the top and in the center, and the more expensive wines at the bottom and the edges. it’s a method that seems to work for high-traffic cabinets.

  13. Donna Maurer Says:

    hey lynn. now that I have moved out of that house, my system is much more primitive. I have 6 cases of great shiraz in my wardrobe, and 6 cases of sauv blanc there too. I have around 2 cases of ‘good wine’ sitting on top of that wine bank, and 2 cases of ‘drink now’ in my kitchen pantry.

    Funny how life makes you simplify

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