You find yourself watching friends sip merlot and talk tennis and all you can think about is the right time to open that 2005 Chateau Petrus you’ve had laying up. And while they drive to the local wine shop to ask Gus what he recommends, you prefer to pick up a case of Barolo on your travels to the Piedmont region of Italy.
Does this sound familiar? Are you that wine aficionado who has chats about the relative merits of the viognier grape or likes to compare tasting notes on highly rated bottles of wine? And are you finding your burgeoning collection to be a bit overwhelming? Maybe the time has come to invest in that dream wine cellar. You know the one. The masterpiece you’ve been laying out in your head for years ever since your first sip of Caymus Cabernet.
Dream Big, Build It Right
The wine cellar of your dreams can become a reality with just a little planning and budgeting. And this beautiful space will not only become the focal point of your next gathering, but will also add value to your home. If you’re considering installing a wine cellar, here are a few things that will make the process easier and help you create a stunning space in your home.
As the name would suggest, the most popular spot for a wine cellar is in a basement area. The naturally cool, moist conditions are conducive to wine storage, and the lack of natural light reduces the potential for damaging wine. But if you don’t have a basement, no worries. You can build a lovely cellar in your garage, a walk-in pantry or closet, or even in a spare room. Just keep in mind that each space will have its own challenges concerning light, insulation, and circulation.
The Right Build
Your dream cellar should, of course, speak to your own sense of style and should provide an attractive space for storing and showcasing your collection. As such there are important choices to make as far as its decor. Racks and Cabinetry--While you can purchase premade racks in all sorts of material, the most elegant cellars usually have handmade wood installations. Mahogany is considered the most elegant choice because of its rich red colorations, but if you’re environmentally conscious, redwood is also an excellent choice and offers recyclability and is biodegradable.
As you create the interior of your cellar, consider spaces for storing wine tools, glasses, decanters, and other wine paraphernalia. You might also want showcase spaces, where your prize bottles can be on display, such as in lit cabinets, stand-up spaces, or even glass cases. Be sure to design for other bottle formats if you’re one to pick up magnums and jeroboams . . . oh my! Doors--The doors to your wine cellar are the first invitation to enjoy and should make a statement about the elegance of what lies within. Nothing creates a more beautiful exterior or offers the durability and necessary air-tight seal more than a wrought iron door. Depending on the size of your space, choose a single or double doors with the lattice work that speaks to your aesthetic.
Flooring--For proper insulation and to maintain humidity, the best flooring choices are wood, stone, or tile. If you are converting a carpeted space, it’s advisable to tear out carpeting and replace it with more efficient flooring. Wood will, of course, match well with cabinetry, but for that rustic feel, stone flooring makes a beautiful choice. Furnishings: For a touch of class, add a beautiful standing table or bar table and chairs as a space to chat with friends while you taste the new vintage and nibble on cheese. Try converting wine casks into spaces to set your glasses or to let your decanted wine sit to breathe. Or purchase a comfortable chair and small table for those nights when you want to read and sip alone.
Cool and Air Tight
The less glamorous but necessary considerations of a wine cellar are creating a space that maintains the proper temperature and that is airtight to keep in moisture. The ideal temperature for wine storage is around 55 degrees Fahrenheit, which keeps corks from drying out and delicate wines from being damaged. The dream cellar thus needs a cooling unit for temperature control. Ducted cooling systems are preferred for their lack of noise and the easy serviceability of the remote units. They do, however, cost more to install and require planning ductwork into your design. Another possibility is a split unit that places the noisier compressor in a remote location. The other consideration in maintaining your collection is the humidity of your space. A dry environment makes corks dry out and allows air to leak into the bottles. Air causes oxidation and oxidation leads to vinegar. Proper humidity for wine storage is about 57%. This means you may want to invest in a humidifier for your cellar.
A final important consideration for maintaining climate control is the insulation of your room. Professionals first recommend that you the entire outside shell of your wine cellar be sheathed in a vapor barrier of Visqueen (6 mm. polyethylene). Insulation should also include sheathing with an R-value of between R-12 and R-19, and for areas that abut an exterior wall, even higher R-values and foam insulation are recommended.
Then There Was Light
A wine cellar is an intimate space and requires lighting that really sets the mood. Overhead track lights offer the versatility of moving and refocusing lights to spotlight your best bottles, and one of your best lighting options is LED. LED lights are not only more durable and efficient, but they also produce far less heat that would interfere with your cool environment. Furthermore, LED lighting doesn’t produce the UV rays largely responsible for damaging wines, so they make excellent cabinet lighting for those special bottles.
So don’t be afraid to build that cellar you’ve been imagining. And don’t forget to leave room for expanding your collection. With so many ways to bring great wine into your home these days, you don’t want to run out of room. Experts recommend leaving space for 25-30% growth. All that’s left then is to enjoy great wines and share them with friends in the stylish space of your new wine cellar.