Whether you’re a serious collector of fine wines – or simply an enthusiast – there are several do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when designing a custom wine cellar:
Location. Wine caves, or cellars, are no longer strictly confined to the underground. Most cellars today are converted from existing spaces as varied as sun rooms, closets and garages. However, when building a custom wine cellar, it is important to consider location early on. The ideal time to call in the experts is when the space has been framed, but nothing has been roughed in.
Environment. Wine is a living organism and like all living things it needs the proper environment in order to thrive, and to age well. As a result, the storage conditions of the wine are crucial. There are four main environmental factors to consider when planning your cellar: temperature, humidity, darkness, and stability.
Temperature: The temperature should remain constant and experts recommend staying within the 55-60°F range. The cooler the temperature, the slower the aging process.
Humidity: Refrigeration is necessary to maintain both temperature, and proper humidity level (50-70%). The corks rely on the dampness in order to stay wet, and to keep the wine properly sealed. Normal air conditioning causes the corks to dry, liquid to escape from the bottle, and air to enter. Conversely, too much moisture will cause the labels to rot, and to peel off the bottles.
Darkness: Wine should always be kept from direct sunlight because ultraviolet rays will destroy its color, and taste. Instead, the cellar should be softly lit, and only when occupied.
Stability: Stability is key when planning your cellar. Not only is it imperative that the temperature, and humidity, of the cellar remain stable but also that there is as little vibration as possible. Even the subtlest movement caused by traffic or the running of the refrigeration, can have an impact. Vibrations can rob many wines of flavor, and bouquet.
Experts. Finally, remember that both the wine – and the cellar itself – are investments. Not only do some bottles come with formidable price tags, but the wine cellar is a premium amenity too; often adding resale value to a home. As a result, it’s important to solicit a wine cellar designer early in the process. Beyond the environmental logistics, they will also help you incorporate the necessary variables like buying style, racking, and appearances. Buying style encapsulates everything from what kind of wines you buy, to how your collection has grown in the last decade, to where you see it headed. Racking is important in relation to aging; bottles should be stored horizontally so the cork is in constant contact with the wine. Usually racking is made of wood, but can also be made of metal and can go around corners, and even curved walls. And when it comes to cellar appearances, they can be as varied as the homeowners themselves. Some people opt for a simple wall to maximize storage space, and others want presentation walls and different depth racks to showcase the labels. Others can be even more extravagant; opting for woodcarvings, stonework, murals, etc.