How to Build a Wine Cellar in Your Home
If you’re a connoisseur of fine wines, chances are that you keep a few bottles in your home. If you are looking to expand your collection or if you would like to keep wines for more than about six months, however, you’ll need a wine cellar in your home to properly store the vintages.
The most important thing to remember is that not all wines improve with age. While most red wines improve with age and careful storage, white wines are often at their peak over a more short-term time frame. By knowing how to store wines properly, you can plan the best wine cellar for your home, and build it to suit your needs as well as for the protection of your growing collection.
Considerations for Wine Cellar Environments
In order to store wine properly, you need to control humidity, temperature, light, and vibration. You can build your wine cellar in a basement or even in a closet so long as you can properly regulate the conditions and protect the wine. As long as you are able to keep the storage areas within specific parameters, it will be a good place to keep your wines for long-term storage.
What’s more important regarding the location is how you intend to use the cellar. If you will be visiting it daily and have the space, a large closet may be your best choice. If you will visit it less frequently, a basement room will allow more storage, as well as be easier to keep cool.
- The humidity of your wine cellar should be at approximately 70 percent. This helps to keep the corks moist. A dry cork shrinks, allowing air to enter the bottle and liquid to escape. It’s the same reason wines are stored on their sides, keeping the inner half of the cork wet. At the same time, you should monitor the humidity of the cellar and not allow it to get too much higher than 70 percent.Higher levels of humidity can cause the glue on the labels to weaken, and may even allow the corks to mold. It’s important to install monitors in your wine cellar that regulate humidity levels, as well as humidifiers triggered by the monitor to add moisture as it is needed yet turn off when the appropriate level of humidity is reached.
- Temperature is another important factor. Wines need to be kept between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit in order to store well. While a refrigerator can be calibrated to maintain this temperature, it is also an appliance that receives constant use. The light turning off and on, the temperature changes when the door is open, and the vibration of the appliance itself all make this an undesirable choice for long term storage.For your wine cellar, you’ll need a thermostat as well as a cooling system in place in order to maintain a proper temperature. If you worry that your cellar may become too cold, you’ll need a warming system, as well. Be aware that any temperature modifications you make need to be gentle, as regularly shifting the temperature of the wine will cause it to age more quickly.
- It is important to keep the cellar dark, and to make sure that the bottles are protected from the light you use when you visit the cellar. While most bottles now have UV protection within the glass, not all do. Even bottles with this protection can become “light struck” over time, which means that the light the wine was exposed to has changed the flavor of the wine to something resembling wet cardboard.While white wines and champagnes are the most likely to change, light isn’t good for long-term storage for reds, either. Make sure that the light in the cellar isn’t shining directly on the bottles. You can always pull a bottle out to check the label, but its place in the rack should still be shadowed even when the light is on.
- Vibrations are the final consideration for a quality wine cellar. While the effects of vibration are debated, it’s believed that they cause the wine to age more quickly. They may impede the natural evolution of the wine, leaving you with vintages that never reach their peak.Vibrations come from many sources, so be sure that any machinery that you have in or near your wine cellar don’t cause the wine to vibrate. Also, be sure to purchase racks that are well constructed and stable. Solidly built racks will absorb smaller vibrations and will help to protect your collection.
With all of these concerns to consider, building a wine cellar may seem very complicated. While proper storage does require careful planning, once it is built and the temperature and humidity are calibrated, all you have to do is keep it running. Be sure to check your systems regularly to ensure that the cellar is stable, and keep adding more wines as you collect them. You can be confident that your new wine cellar will keep them protected and in prime condition for decades to come.