The story’s different, but the reason’s the same. Maybe you’ve been a lifelong lover and collector of wine, but never had room for more than a few dozen bottles in your home, and you’ve decided to go pro. Maybe you just fell in love with wine, went to Tuscany, bought two hundred bottles, and now need a place to store them in your home. You need a wine cellar, friend. A beautiful wine cellar that displays your bottles (with Ultra Wine Racks), showcases the best of your collection to friends and family, and maybe even has a table, chairs, and a few decanters for tastings. Soft light, a quiet cooling unit, and plenty of glasses.
But first you’ve got to build it. And you’re going to want to build it right. Here’s how:
WHERE NOT TO BUILD A WINE CELLAR
Before we begin to talk about where you’ll build your wine cellar, it may be useful to talk about where you won’t build it. To do that, we’ll jump in the Wayback Machine and go back almost four millennia, to what anthropologists believe may be the first wine cellar ever built.
In 2013, while excavating the ruins of an ancient palace in Tel Kabri, Israel, anthropologists stumbled across an intriguing find: a wine cellar. An old wine cellar. About 3,700 years old, to be exact. After painstakingly excavating the site for about six weeks, the archaeologists uncovered about 40 jugs of wine, each one more than three feet tall.
Excited at taking their first real drink in six weeks, the archaeologists opened the jugs, only to find them empty. Choking back their disappointment, the scientists tested the insides of the jugs and discovered traces of tartaric acid, a key component in grapes. They also discovered traces of honey, mint, and other herbaceous additives. Château Latour this stuff wasn’t. To a latter-day connoisseur, the wine stored at Tel Kabri would have tasted like cough syrup.
But Tel Kabri isn’t the oldest wine storage facility ever discovered. A 6,100-year-old winery was discovered in 2007 in the Areni-1 cave complex in Armenia. Cellars are a relatively new invention. Wine storage started in caves, and to this day, wine caves remain the most energy efficient and popular way to age fine wines.
Think about caves for a moment. What comes to mind? A dark, cold, slightly muggy place, right? Funny you should say that. Those are exactly the conditions under which wine should be stored.
Wine should be stored away from harsh light (including artificial light) at 55°F and 55-70% relative humidity.
Here are three basic rules to remember when deciding where in your house to build a wine cellar:
1) Never build your wine cellar where power or mechanical failures may ruin your wine.
2) Never build your wine cellar in a garage, utility room, or another uninsulated room.
3) Never build your wine cellar above ground (if you can help it).
POSITIONING YOUR WINE CELLAR IN YOUR HOME
Let’s say you were going to build a house. A nice house. Comfy and cozy. Warm in winter, cool in summer. Materials matter, right?
If you were going to build your house in the American Southwest, where summer temperatures regularly soar above 105°F (40.5°C), you wouldn’t just throw up four cement walls and a plywood ceiling and call it a day, would you? You’d roast. You’d probably build your walls out of adobe or stucco and choose some thick insulation for the walls. And a heavy-duty air conditioner, one capable of handling the large heat loads necessary to keep a living space cool in summer.
The first step to building a wine cellar is to take into account what materials you’ll need based on how many exterior walls your cellar will have.
The best place for a wine cellar is below ground; if that isn’t an option, a room with the least amount of sunlight exposure (and as many interior walls as possible) will do.
If your wine collection isn’t that big, a closet-sized space works great (and it’s easier to insulate and cool).
Speaking of insulating and cooling, it’s time to learn about…
Now that we’ve discussed the positioning of the cellar, the fundamentals of proper wine storage, and the different types of cooling units, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty: the actual construction of the cellar.
Framing the room
Stone. Glass. Cement. Brick. What do these materials have in common? They’re terrible insulators. No, seriously. Glass is like a sieve. Even insulated, dual-paned glass allows heat to travel freely across it. It’s the same with concrete and stone, no matter how thick. Stone and concrete are porous materials, transporting heat and moisture from the ground outside into your cellar. Honestly? The best thing for your wine cellar is wooden framing. Two-by-four or two-by-six studs and joists will do nicely.
The all-important vapor barrier
A vapor barrier is a sheet of plastic or a coating of foam which helps to keep the cellar at the ideal temperature and humidity range by hermetically sealing the cellar, prohibiting the intrusion of moisture. A minimum of six-millimeter plastic sheeting is recommended for the walls, and all walls and floors should be sealed with a sealant such as DRYLOK®.
Fiberglass, grid foam, and blown-in insulation are all fine, but the R-value should be no less than R-13 for interior walls, R-19 for exterior walls, and R-19 for ceilings (but R-30 is highly recommended). You can also use closed-cell foam to insulate your walls and serve as a vapor barrier.
You must have an exterior-grade cellar door sealed with weather stripping, including a bottom sweep or threshold. Poorly sealed doors cause your unit to run continuously, shortening its lifespan. Glass cellar doors can negatively impact the cellar climate; as always, we recommend you consult a wine storage professional before installing a glass door.
Low-voltage lights as fluorescent or LED are ideal. Seal any compromised area with a vapor barrier and insulation when installing lights.
Standard sheetrock is acceptable. Greenboard might be preferable, as it resists moisture. A PVA paint formulation will provide a durable finish and assist the vapor barrier. Tongue-and-groove paneling made of rot-resistant wood like redwood and cedar is also a fashionable choice.
Your flooring needs to withstand humid conditions. Avoid carpet! Hardwood, tile, stone, sealed concrete, vinyl, and cork floors can withstand moisture and won’t absorb spills.
There are two basic types of wine racks: traditional and modern. Traditional is mahogany, redwood, or cedar. These woods are moisture-resistant and pleasing to the eye, and give your cellar a classic, rustic feel. Metal racking is gaining traction due to its sleek, modern look. Mounting panels can create unique, customizable designs. We highly recommend Ultra Wine Racks.
Wine should be stored away from harsh light (including artificial light) at 55°F and 55-70% relative humidity. Never build your wine cellar where power or mechanical failures may ruin your wine, or in a garage, utility room, or another uninsulated room. The best place for a wine cellar is below ground. Failing that, place your wine in a room with the least amount of sunlight exposure and as many interior walls as possible.
The ideal temperature range for storing wine is between 45°F and 65°F; 55°F is a common middle ground. Though popular wisdom says a wine cellar should be kept at 50-70% relative humidity, 50%RH is usually adequate. Avoid strong light and use LEDs or other low-voltage bulbs in your cellar. To avoid damaging vibrations, never place your wine too close to a door or a running appliance or store your wine against a shared wall with a washing machine or a refrigerator. The wine should be allowed to touch the cork.
The three options for wine cellar cooling units from WhisperKOOL are self-contained systems, ductless split systems, and fully ducted systems. Self-contained units are easy to install and maintain and are meant to be mounted through walls, between wall studs. Split systems require a licensed HVAC-R technician to install but allow for more flexible installation options and quieter cellar environments. Fully ducted systems are the quietest and most flexible option, maximizing cellar space and creating a virtually silent cellar environment.
Cellar construction tips
Stone, glass, cement, and brick are poor insulators. The best type of wall for your wine cellar is insulated sheetrock or greenboard. You must also have a vapor barrier, a sheet of plastic or a coating of foam which helps to keep the cellar at the ideal temperature and humidity range by prohibiting the intrusion of moisture. The R-value of wall insulation should be no less than R-13 for interior walls, R-19 for exterior walls, and R-19 for ceilings (but R-30 is highly recommended). You must have an exterior-grade cellar door, one which is sealed with weather stripping, including a bottom sweep or threshold. Poorly sealed doors cause your unit to run continuously, shortening its lifespan. Low-voltage lights as fluorescent or LED are ideal. Seal any compromised area with a vapor barrier and insulation when installing lights. Floors should be hardwood, tile, stone, sealed concrete, vinyl, or cork to absorb moisture and withstand humidity. We recommend Ultra Wine Racks for all your modern racking needs.
If you have any questions about anything you’ve read, please feel free to contact our customer service department at 1-800-343-9463 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.