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Building a Wine Cellar

So You Want To Build A Wine Cellar?

Doing It Right the First Time (Part 1)

Personal wine cellars are becoming more and more common these days. As the popularity of collecting wines increases, so does the need for proper storage techniques. For wine to mature properly, it must be left to sit undisturbed for long periods of time at the right temperature and humidity. These conditions can be found in a properly planned and constructed wine cellar.

The generally accepted perfect temperature to store wine at is 55° F for reds and 45° F for whites. These temperatures slow the aging process and allow for certain chemical reactions to occur slowly over time giving the wine complex aromas, characteristics, color, and flavors. Humidity levels should range between 60% and 75% relative humidity to keep corks from drying out and to prevent air from entering the bottle damaging the wine through oxidation.

Unfortunately most collectors are not fortunate enough to have a location within their dwelling which maintains these conditions consistently throughout the year. This is why many people will decide to build a climate controlled wine cellar. A well built wine cellar can offer the perfect environment in which to keep your valuable wine collection well conditioned, safe, organized, and displayed much like a room full of trophies.

Choosing the size and location of your wine cellar can be one of the single most important factors for accommodating your wine collection.

When I first meet with a client, I will ask lots of questions to get a feel for what kind of wine cellar they may be looking for: I will also find out as much as I can about their wine collection so that I know how to design the custom room tailored to their specific storage needs. It is smart to choose a location with fairly easy access. You need to remember that you will be carrying a lot of wine to and from this location so you will not want it to be too far out of the way. If you want to have a show piece wine cellar, you may want to consider locating it near an adjacent living space and not in an unfinished area so that all your friends and family may easily view your masterpiece. It is also a good idea to factor in wiring, lighting, duct work routing and so forth when choosing a location.

You will need to plan on having the walls, ceilings and floors prepared when using mechanical cooling. A general rule of thumb is that the thicker the walls are, the greater the insulation value, the more consistent the temperature will remain in the cellar. A vapor barrier is a must to control humidity levels and temperature in your cellar and to have proper operation of the cooling equipment. In addition, the lack of a proper vapor barrier on the warm side of the wine cellar walls and ceiling is a recipe for disaster with the risk of condensation within the walls and mold growth. 6 mil plastic sheeting or a spray-in closed cell foam insulation works well for a vapor barrier.

Once the room is prepared, interior walls and ceilings can be covered with a variety of materials to suit the décor of the cellar. Plastered and painted walls are very common, however brick or stone veneers may be applied as well. Another popular method is to cover the walls and ceiling with tongue-and-groove paneling in a wood which matches the wine racking for a uniform look throughout the cellar. Tiled floors are very popular but I prefer flooring made from softer materials such as wood or cork. In the event that a bottle falls to the floor the chances of breakage are minimized.

Now that you have a properly prepared and constructed room, you will want to consider your options for wine storage and climate control. In the next installment, I will discuss wine racking and cooling options offered by Apex Wine Cellars. In the meantime, please visit our website at ApexWineCellars.com

Peter Oikle
Apex Wine Cellars
New England Branch


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