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Cellar Management Software by Dean Tudor (April 4, 2002)

I first started doing computerized wine management in 1984. I took PC-File in DOS and created multiple templates for different categories of wines, indicating a wealth of fields including tasting notes, profiles, food matches, names and menus of fabulous dinners, etc. Plus importing and exporting data (to reduce re-typing), and multiple searches across all the fields. I have scores of thousands of notes; I have a modest 1200-bottle collection of aging red and fortified wines, all neatly defined by a database program. It took me a while to setup, but I am still pleased with it. I have never looked back. Today, anybody can do a cellar management program (it is, after all, just a list, just a database): modify existing templates (CDs, house contents, phone numbers) in Microsoft Works, Lotus 1-2-3, Access, or the variety of shareware floating around.

What is different and new with customized cellar management software is the level of tech support, the reduction of typing, the dropdown menus and clicking, the graphing, the illustrations, the report formats, and the updating features through the Internet. Every program I have looked at or demoed over the years does its basic job of "listing" very well. Some are more intuitive than others. What separates them all is the quantity and quality of the bells and whistles, and the labour saving devices.

Recently, I got a review copy of Wine Cellar II (WINE CELLAR II Software with Internet wine updates and a demo version at www.winecellarsoftware.com, CD-ROM at $79.95 CDN plus shipping, distributed in Canada by Vintage Solutions, POB 20064, St. Catharines, Ontario L2M 7W7, 1-905-937-3543, vintagesolutions@sympatico.ca). It will operate under Windows 95 (I used Windows ME), and it needs 25 MB disk space plus space for data on whatever new wines you add. Its origins are in New Zealand (I once used a 1995 Australian program, Winebase, and it was pretty good too: it is still available as a shareware download from www.winebase.com.au). So what's different about Wine Cellar II? It does a great job of displaying and printing any window, any list, any search query result, any bottle listing.

Some things I liked include its linkages with an update site on the Internet, which should include material from the wineries themselves including their URLs. There is also its intuitiveness, the lack of retyping in many cases (just click on categories of wineries, regions, grapes, etc. to add them to your wine's database), over 30 graphs and reports (including financial ones on what you spent and consumed), and the usage of a barcode necktag system that will minimize typing even further – details are at the website. Help is the standard F1 key; there are also 12 shortcut keys. Problems are disposed of at the website (I downloaded patch.exe to get rid of a bug which won't appear in the CD-ROM you'll get). There is even a huge section in the CD-ROM on how and where to build a wine cellar. The Canadian distributor has added Canadian wineries, regions and grape varieties. Icons determine status of wines: ready for drinking, overdue, tasting notes, whether racked or not, whether organic wine or not. There is a "Bottle Movement" list which keeps track of where you have moved your wines whenever you need to replace dead soldiers (there are a maximum of 999 wines in each bin, and you create multiple bins).

Some things I didn't like: there is no category for where you bought the wine (Buffalo? LCBO? SAQ? gift? Opimian?) – that'll have to be incorporated with the tasting note. Some annoying grammatical errors (it's, its) and the lack of distinctive Canadian grape varietals (vidal, baco noir), although that was promised to be fixed when I pointed it out. No wine details are supplied with the software – just winery names. You'll need an Internet account to go to the website as a registered user and pick up the wine buying guides.

The leader in the wine management software field is Robert Parker's Wine Advisor and Cellar Manager (Deluxe). In addition to the usual storage details, graphs, charts, etc., you get Parker's regional reports, his tasting notes back to 1992, a wine price file covering 100,000 listings, and linkage of your purchases to Parker's listings without retyping. If you have wines Parker has not reviewed, then you need to retype. This calls for over 100 MB of space, and it is updated annually. Basic price is $230 CDN, considerably more than Wine Cellar II, but it covers considerably more (but no updated Internet wine sites or information). It all depends on your cellar's depth, need for insurance, and your need for Parker's (love him or hate him) notes. Apparently, over 12,000 copies have been sold. I really think that anybody with a huge wine cellar would need something like this Deluxe. That person should be able to afford it! (as well as pay somebody to enter the data). A 6.5 MB demo is at www.winetech.com and a demo for Wine Cellar is at www.winecellarsoftware.com.

Dean Tudor is Treasurer of the Wine Writers Circle of Canada, Professor Emeritus in the School of Journalism at Ryerson University, host of Wines Beers and Spirits of the net (www.ryerson.ca/~dtudor/wine.htm) and creator of the World Wine Watch Newsletter (www.ryerson.ca/~dtudor/www.htm).

 

 

 

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