About UPC and EAN Barcodes

One of the most common questions we receive has to do with the existing UPC/EAN barcodes that are on some bottles. You can indeed scan a UPC/EAN onto this screen to find/add a wine without touching the keyboard, as well as scan it directly with our free mobile apps. When it works, this is a nice time saver. However, as of May 25, 2016, the CellarTracker database has over 2.3 million wines, one of the largest wine databases in the world. For most users ~99% of their wine is already represented. Of these 2.3 million wines, users have entered 386,178 UPC/EAN codes covering 986,816 wines. So while scanning a UPC will often save you a few keystrokes, it is almost always the case that typing one or two keywords from the label will find your wine.

As of October 11, 2014, our mobile apps support easy UPC capture. Scan the barcode with the integrated scanner. If there are no results, then manually search by name. When you pick a wine, the app will prompt you to attach the UPC to that wine, so future scans will automatically match.

Alas, UPC/EAN is not a panacea (there are other products which pretend that it is), as there are significant issues with their application in the wine industry:

  • Many wines do not have UPC/EAN codes: Many older releases do not have codes, and many newer releases from smaller wineries do not have codes.
  • The same wine can have many barcodes: For foreign wines, each importer can set their own code. Also, different sizes, different releases of non-vintage wines, all can have different codes. These are all valid reasons. We are also pleased to say that, as of October 10, 2014, CellarTracker now has support for multiple UPC/EAN codes per wine.
  • In some cases, the same UPC/EAN can be used for many wines: In some cases the producers and importers are sloppy (unintentionally or otherwise) about ensuring that each new wine gets its own code. Unfortunately this means that a Cabernet and a Merlot from the same producer, despite being separate wines, may bear the same code. More likely, vintage variations are often glossed over.

All this to say that UPC/EAN is not living up to its full potential when it comes to wine.

Note: 8 digit EAN codes are not currently supported.

CipherLab Scanner Note

The recommended CipherLab scanners do have one configuration issue that is easily addressed. By default, the Cipherlab scanners are set to convert 12-digit UPC (US-only) to 13-digit EAN codes by appending a leading 0. As of October 10, 2014, CellarTracker also deals with these EAN codes by also searching for their 12-digit counterpart. The search might be a tiny bit slower, but this configuration setting is now far less crippling than it used to be.

The Cipherlab website has the configuration manual (they are a bit technical, because CipherLab is actually an OEM manufacturer) for all of their handheld scanners. Print out the pages and do the following:

  1. Scan
  2. Locate the UPC-A settings in your manual, under Convert to EAN-13 Scan
  3. Scan

This will remove the leading 0 when dealing with UPC barcodes.

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