If you have a growing assortment of wine, it may be time to think about constructing a wine cellar. Some time ago the custom wine cellar was scarce; today more and more wine lovers are learning about wine cellar construction or contracting the work out to those who know how to do the job precisely.
Wine rooms are more than a dark, cool place to hold an assortment of wine bottles. Todays custom wine cellar is a controlled environment where humidity and temperature are regulated to allow wine to properly age without harm to corks, labels or the wine itself.
There are two types of wine cellars. One is a room that has been mainly made to stock wine in the right environment and the other is a stand-alone unit that mirrors those conditions. A stand-alone wine cellar is not as effective as a custom-built version, but some people like the aesthetics of a small cooled refrigerator over a custom wine cellar. Those who do choose a custom cellar have three simple considerations for proper creation.
Temperature Control and Venting
A wine cellar room is used to hold and age the wine in the bottle rather than preserving it at a serving temperature. (A stand-alone wine refrigerator is best for transporting wine out of the cellar to maintain at serving temperatures.) Aging wine is a balance of time, temperature and the chemical reactions that happen as a result of the two.
Wine should be aged in conditions ranging between 55 and 65 percent humidity and a steady 55 degrees Fahrenheit, give or take one degree. Wine held at higher temperatures will mature quicker and wine experiences chemical reactions at higher temperatures that destroy the notes of the wine over time.
In some locations of the country, property holders with basements often find that the environment is right for basic wine storage, but seasonal temperature and humidity variations should be avoided. The perfect storage solution is a custom-built or DIY-construction wine cellar with climate and humidity control using a wine cooling unit to keep the temperature at a steady 55 degrees.
These units are available in a range of sizes and the dimensions of your wine cellar room will control what size you need to purchase. By no means buy a wine cellar cooling system too small for your room; you most likely will never get a steady, optimal storage temperature and the cooling unit will become overtaxed trying to keep up.
Wine cooling units require proper venting, and your wine cellar construction plan demands either a hole in the wall to allow venting outdoors or enough vent space to move warm air out of the room. Check the specs of your wine cooling system; most require a venting space at least two times as large as the wine cellar space itself.
Electrical power is also an issue. Custom wine cellar builders suggest a dedicated power source to run a wine cooling system. Those who choose to use a common power source frequently find the system overloading with blown fuses and other electrical problems.
Insulation and Vapor Barriers
The wine cooling unit is only part of your climate control plan for a custom wine cellar; you also need a vapor barrier made of plastic sheeting used on the hot side of the wall. Some people wrap the interior of the wine cellar previous to inserting the insulation, keeping the plastic loose so that insulation can be positioned between the studs in the wall. Wrap the ceiling and the walls, or your vapor barrier will be imperfect. After the barrier is installed, the insulation comes next.
Good wine cellar building requires the right kind of insulation for your walls and ceiling. For instance, if you are building a 2×6 wall, R19 insulation is recommended, but if you have a smaller wall of 2×4, R13 may be your best bet. (The R designation represents the heat resistance of the insulation.) Ceilings need R30. Custom wine cellar builders should never put in the insulation loose without filling the material into the sections, as this decreases the insulations effectiveness.
The next step is to install a type of drywall called green board, which is moisture-resistant, making it a bit more expensive than regular drywall. Install an exterior-grade door to the wine cellar and your climate control plan is complete.
Lighting and UV Exposure Control
Wine is damaged by UV exposure, which is why the bottles are normally constructed out of dark glass. Avoid installing fluorescent bulbs in the wine cellar room, as they give off UV radiation. Control the intensity by using recessed lighting on a dimmer and avoid shining light directly on your wine bottles for long periods of time. Some wine racks are created with compartments that hide bottles from the light which can help lessen the exposure, but if your bottles are kept in plain view, try to avoid the spotlight effect on your bottles.
Almost any kind of flooring can be used in your custom wine cellar. If your home is large enough for a tasting room to complement your cellar, you may wish to give them both a matching look, but never use carpet and rugs in the cellar area. They simply cant hold up to the required humidity levels without surrendering to mold. Mold growth will ruin your wine, as can any strong odor from chemicals or cheeses. A wine cellar should be used only to hold wine; store food in a separate space.
Constantly watch the temperature and humidity in your wine cellar with an external sensor or gauge. Never assume that the wine cooling system will always function accurately. A quick glimpse at the external gauge can offer you early notice if the wine cooling unit is having difficulties, or if the unit is showing a faulty readout because of a bad sensor or other technical troubles.
Building a custom wine cellar may require some attention to the design demands of proper wine cellar storage, however once correctly built, you may realize that your collection grows quickly; its simple to invest more money in wine when you realize it will be stored securely for maximum pleasure.