What does a wine cellar do? Think before you answer, because you need to be absolutely certain of the purpose of a wine cellar before you begin to build a wine cellar of your own. Increasingly, given the rising number of wine aficionados around the world, a residential wine cellar is gaining ground as a status symbol for both the mature connoisseur as well as the entry-level enthusiast, but its utility extends far beyond that.
Essentially, a wine cellar is a storage space that protects wine from potentially damaging external influences. Because wine is a natural, perishable food product, it is vulnerable to exposure mainly from heat, light, and humidity. However, if stored properly, wines not only retain their quality, but also improve with regard to aroma, flavor, and richness as they mature.
Building your own wine cellar
Before you begin, remember that the ideal wine cellar must provide constant temperature, humidity, and darkness. Add to that well-ventilated and clean surroundings, and your favorite Chardonnay and Cabernet are in good hands. So what are the basic steps to keep in mind?
- The more you research, the better your chances of building the perfect wine cellar. The Internet offers a vast number of sites that offer wine cellar kits. Prices for these kits may range from USD 2000 to about 4000, but that’s a slightly conservative estimate, and process can increase depending on the quality of your wine cellar racks. Bottom line: don’t scrimp on costs because ultimately, your expensive wines will suffer.
- Depending on the size of your house, you may choose to place your wine cellar below or above ground. Obviously, those with larger houses can accommodate wine cellars above ground, but the basement is the safest bet because it will support the combined weight of the cooler and the racks.
- Your area selected, begin work on insulation. All inner walls must have at least R-11 insulation while outer walls and the ceiling must have at least R-19. If you choose the basement, a vapor barrier with a concrete sealant over it will be adequate for the floor. The vapor barrier usually a 6mm polyethylene plastic sheet should face outward (the ‘warm’ side of the cellar), as opposed to the ‘cold’ side. This is something you have to be careful of: if the sheeting faces inward, damp will set in and damage the walls.
- Next, install a door. The ideal door must be solid, windowless, and insulated NOT wooden, because they are not adequately insulated. Also ensure that the weather stripping is adequate and the door is airtight.
- A very important step is to place the cooler, which is ideally placed at the back of the area for aesthetic purposes! Typically, the cooler should be placed between crosswise boards about 6 inches down from the ceiling.
- Finally, finish the walls and lights. Use a drywall to finish off the walls and cover up with durable strip paneling. When installing the lights, avoid recessed lights because they make the cellar less than airtight. Aim for simplicity and you’ll be ok. But remember, light switches are best placed outside, or else they get in the way of your wine racks.