What to Consider When Designing a Wine Cellar in your Home

Above Image Courtesy of Vineyard Wine Cellars

Many people consider themselves wine enthusiasts and like to incorporate this interest within their home environments by creating a special room or area, notably known as a wine cellar or wine display. Wine consumption has increased in the last several years much in part to the importance the beverage plays in social experiences, and wine collections have become a visual focal point both in personal and public spaces. Due to technological and mechanical advancements, the days of the old wine storage in a cave have evolved to artistic glass displays positioned centrally on main floors, all with the capability of personalization.

What things should you consider when designing storage for a wine collection?

1. Primary Use

Is the wine collection going to contain bottles for current consumption as well as special vintages held for a collector’s value, or both? Defining the main purpose for the collection will actually help determine the other necessary elements in designing what/where the storage will be built. If the primary use of the storage is for quick access to entertaining, then the location should be in an adjacent area to the entertainment space. Should there be more concern for the longevity protection of the wine collection, then an area where environmental control can be maximized should be chosen. Knowing your goal for the collection is the overall driver of the other elements that will be addressed next.

2. Bottle Capacity

The average number of bottles that will be on hand any one time needs to be determined so that the storage logistics of this inventory can be calculated and analyzed for the best type of racking options. Consideration should also be given for wine bottles that are cork enclosed for they will need to lay on their sides due to the cork’s necessity for constant moisture. Metal or faux cork enclosures can be stored upright or on their sides. The number of each type of bottle enclosure will then affect whether the bottles are displayed “cork forward” (Fig. 1 – cork end of the bottle faces front) or “label forward” (Fig.2 – the bottle lays on its side displaying its label) and thus, determines the type of racking needed.

The number of bottles in the collection will also affect the load capacity placed upon the floor structure of the storage space. Each bottle weighs an average of 3 lbs, so a collection of 1000 bottles can reach a load capacity of 3,000lbs, which may call for a certain structured location in the home, or, reinforced floor framing supports.

Whatever the number of bottles in the collection, space planning should also include capacity for more future bottles, as most wine enthusiasts typically continue to discover new appellations they want to add to their collections.

3. Climate Control

One of the key elements that must be addressed with wine storage is the capability of climate control. The ideal temperature for most wines is 55℉, and avoiding heat is the main preservation rule. Temperatures below 45℉ or above 70℉ can affect the oxidation process, creating a negative impact on the wine quality.

There are two types of climate control: Passive or Active. Passive control uses the ambient temperature that appears naturally in a space. Because basements or lower levels can tend to be cooler, this usually is where you might find wine storage for more inexpensive wines. Active control is where the temperature can be controlled electronically through the use of cooling units that are either self-contained, ductless, or ducted. Premium collector wines are kept with an active climate control to keep a consistent temperature for wine longevity and quality. Because of these controls, the storage has more options for locations.

4. Location

Once primary use, bottle capacity, and climate control are determined, then the location can be selected. There are other environmental factors that need to be considered in the placement of the wine storage space – UV rays from natural light, mechanical vibrations from HVAC and home appliances, and heat from both of the former can cause premature aging of the wine and change the intended flavor essence. A good location will be placed away from these issues, or, addressed through protective glass/screening, proper insulation, and adequate venting.

5. Style/Materials

As mentioned earlier, today’s wine storage design options come in many different styles, primarily dictated by the materials used to build them. The three most popular styles with their accompanying characteristics are:

Contemporary: This style usually entails a glass-enclosed area with aluminum or steel metal racking in columns, pegs, or a floating rack format. This storage type can be built along a wall, cantilevered from a wall, and encapsulated in glass (pod), or built on acrylic walls. The “label forward” racking is the format used in this style. Contemporary wine displays are usually the focal point of a room.

Photo courtesy of Dragon Cellars, Venetian Island, FL

Traditional: This style of wine storage is typically referred to as the wine cellar because it is usually located in the cellar or basement. Wood is the main material used here, in creating the back walls and X-bins. Brick columns, oak barrels, and reclaimed wood accents are blended with wood or metal storage lockers and freestanding racks to create rustic antiquity in showcasing special premium aged wines. Both cork forward and label forward racking formats can be used in this style.

Photo courtesy of Cellar Maison

Transitional: This style combines qualities of both the contemporary and traditional styles mixing their typical materials of metals, reclaimed woods, and glass to create unique spaces that house the bottles in mixed formats too. You’ll find metal or acrylic racking, wood X-bins, and cubbies together to form a visually interesting wine display. Both cork and label forward racking formats can be seen in these storage designs as well.

Photo Courtesy of Atlanta Wine Cellars

Which ever style you choose for your wine storage and display, you can’t go wrong if you begin with proper planning of these aforementioned design elements. Homes with a designated wine room or display have experienced a 31% increase in sales over those without in the last few years, so the addition of this specialty space seems to be a beneficial endeavor for your home, as well as your palate!

Karen Lee Johnson, interior designer in Milwaukee Wisconsin

Hi, I’m Karen!

I’m the Founder/Creative Director of Karen Lee Johnson Interiors, a residential design firm working with clients seeking a professional, innovative and collaborative approach to design. We partner with you to creatively and meticulously translate your dreams and visions into reality. Learn more about our services or book a call to tell us about your project!

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