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BS00848A1.gif (1950 bytes)     Databases & PDAs,

Web Sites & Spreadsheets...

Hey, it's pretty easy to make your wine cellar digital!

There are so many ways to keep track of all the things in our lives... Most people I know cover their keyboards with Post-It Notes, but the truth is that people are adjusting to the new digital age, and quite quickly. It can't be avoided. With easier access to hardware and software, and as information management systems simplifies so that databases practically become invisible, people are becoming more and more willing to introduce digital technology into their lives.

Some of you may be saying "Hey, Tony, hold on a second... All I want to do is remind myself what I got, what I like, and where it is.... Geez!" Actually, it doesn't have to be all that big a task. An information management system (IMS) for a small cellar could be simply a log book. Someone who doesn't collect or store many bottles but wants to remember what tasted good with what foods could have an IMS kept in a journal. You can get wine record books from most wine supply stores or major book distributors, and you can also download templates from the web. (NOTE: I'll be putting a few templates up soon...)  Or you can simply print your own.

So why go digital? There are a lot of reasons, but here are a few advantages a beginner or serious collector may consider important:

  1. Dealing with "Fluid" Records is Easier: Consider this... a database is like a wine cellar that never loses a bottle. Even though one may be opened, the record remains as if frozen in time. A database provides not only what you currently have, but with each entry includes more and more information about what you once had and what happened to it. You may even discover trends in your tastes. Every wine you try, whether in your cellar or not, can be recorded. It won't be long until your list spills into the hundreds or thousands. What better way to enjoy a hobby?

  2. Copying and Sharing Information: Most databases these days use standardized formats so that data can be copied, shared, and used from one application to another. Rather than writing the same information twice, do it once and copy as often as needed. Further more, one data entry can be virtually included or linked to separate documents automatically, removing the likelihood of errors and maintaining information consistency. This is called single sourcing, and it saves a lot of time. Rather than updating two or three journals, you can update the information in one place and any changes will automatically appear in all records.

  3. Digital Delivers Durability: It is just too damn easy to lose or accidentally destroy paper. In comparison, it is far harder to lose digital data. Most systems automatically produce back-up copies when in use to protect data that may be lost by an unexpected power failure or worse. A total hard-drive failure may not mean the end either. There are companies who will, for a modest fee, take your damaged hard drive and recover data. But the best idea is simply to make your own back-up copy of all your data. Most data can be safely stored on a regular disk or a writable CD-ROM. For extra measure, store the back-up copies off-site. 

  4. Basic Clarity: Hand writing smudges or may be illegible. Keeping your records digitally adds clarity. And thank heaven for spellcheckers!

  5. Data Mining: Digital data makes it easy to find specific information. Rather than flipping pages, simply categorize your information based on criteria to find what you're looking for. "Show me all the 1997 reds from Italy that I rated as 8 or better, and that cost less than $25..."   Criteria searches can also be done between several local databases or in more advanced cases, even on-line. "Show me all 1995-98 French reds in my storage database, compare them to the same in my brother's storage database, and rank them according to the vintages tables at  www.winecellartimes.com..." Digital data make criteria hunting and comparisons very easy.

  6. Support Your Growing Interest: The inherent flexibility of digital databases can easily accommodate anyone's growing interests in wines. Whether you want to keep more detailed information, update your data storage software, add images to your database, or even place all your wine cellar information on-line through a network server, doing it digitally is a great way to go.

  7. Study Time: A digital database allows for easy review. After several years of entering detailed information, the memories and lessons learned from experience will show you how far your wine education had come.

  8. Making Your Own: Believe it or not, if you make your own wine, there is a mountain of information you can track from year to year that will help improve your skills and results. Every production detail, whether pH level, alcohol percentages, temperature, fermentation time intervals, or even the phases of the moon can be recorded and then added and kept on database.

This is by no means a complete list of reasons but it should be enough to convince most people who want to keep and apply their information that going digital is worth looking into. The hard part is starting... In the development of software, and I'd wager it's the same in most technologies, the most effort is made up front in the layout and development stage. However, once established, trust me, life with a database becomes infinitely easier, saves a tremendous amount of time, and really adds to one's experience and enjoyment as a hobbyist or collector.

There are some easy steps for building your digital wine IMS:

Identify everything about wine that you want to know. I suggest you try to record as much as you can. Over time, your interests may grow and you'll want to look back. A good starting point would be to look at a standard wine log book.

Get organized. This may even mean coming up with some sort of numbering or bottle identification system. Get your digital files and software all in proper order so that you can proceed uninterupted.

Become familiar with basic technology. This is actually easy. Try out various spreadsheets and see how they work. Some advice for people who may not be all that familiar with these sort of software programs: Don't worry, it's a piece of cake! Most software today makes it very hard to make a mistake and almost always allow you to undo an error. Then take a look at some of the latest wine record software out there for home computers and even handheld PDAs if you like tech-toys. You'll be happy to see that there is a lot to choose from and some of it is available free of charge! So you can see, you have a lot of information available, whether you want to buy a record system or create your own.

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(Example of a Basic Wine Spreadsheet)

Once you are ready to keep records digitally, you'll be ready to get more out of your wine enjoyment experiences. Not only that, but your desk will be clearer, trips to your cellar will become more enlightening, and you're information will work for you.





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