I recently started using Vinfolio. It’s one of these online cellar inventory services, and a very good one. You create an account and then enter every bottle you own. When you’re done, the program gives you different ways to search and organize the information, and it lets you see the distribution of your collection in terms of region, varietal, color, style, even (for heaven’s sake!) 100-point score. It’s free; Vinfolio makes money from advertising, various add-on services, and by connecting you to its own wine store, so that any time you run out of a bottle, or notice a hole in your collection, you can solve the problem with a click of the mouse. It has also set up a kind of buyback function, in which you can sell it wine from your collection. For more serious collectors—meaning the kind with real money—Vinfolio will even warehouse your wine and allow you to call up bottles for delivery through your online account.
I’ve never been the collecting type myself. No classic R&B vinyl, no postage stamps, no bronze statues of cowboys. And I certainly don’t have the pocketbook for ambitious wine collecting—it’s an awfully expensive game—but something about wine does make me want to keep a variety of it around, so that I can grab a good bottle for any dinner, any night. I guess I’m also susceptible to the romantic vision of the small wine cellar, the secret room where you hide your treasures—although in my case it’s just a corner of my cluttered basement, where the climate is pretty stable. I also like the way the nurturing of this little horde seems to be changing my buying habits. Instead of picking up bottles to drink in the next few days, I pick up bottles to replace ones I’ve consumed, and to flesh out areas where I’m lacking. It’s almost as if it has become the wine list for the modest restaurant that is my home, and I try to keep everything in stock.
But I’m also noticing, through my interaction with Vinfolio, some real pitfalls—of the spiritual variety. The software keeps a constant dollar-value tally of your entire collection, in terms of both current auction prices and retail replacement cost. It also tracks the change in value over time, so you can see if your wine is depreciating or appreciating. I don’t have any of the wines that these functions are built to celebrate, but I still notice myself glancing at those dollar figures and, because I’m human, wishing they were higher. These thoughts are quickly followed, of course, by thoughts about the absurdity of those thoughts, but still: I don’t like the notion of my little wine cellar becoming a kind of stock portfolio, a place to look at numbers and rub my hands together, as if counting gold (or tin) coins down in some lonely, greedy dungeon. Not much risk of that, I suppose, but the very thought of it has forced me to ask what I do want that collection to be about, and what I want wine to be about, period, vis-à-vis the rest of my life. And I guess the answer is just pleasure, of the simple kind.