As a self confessed oenophile, I can only dream about dedicating an entire room in my house to my favourite grapes and of course, suitably stocking it. Whilst I’m picturing a custom built, 5000 bottle capacity, state of the art room that will see me being the envy of all my friends, the reality is my kitchen fridge does me fine. For now at least.
Taking my fantasies out of it, wine cellars are big business in the luxury real estate market and whether you want yours to be a space for entertaining, a trophy room of sorts or a suitable environment for a valuable investment, the main consideration should always be that wine is perishable and its protection should be paramount. You wouldn’t send your kids to the beach without sunscreen now would you?
The serious connoisseur will likely be investing as much in fine wine as they are on the cellar itself and regardless of design, the basic principal of any wine cellar is to shield the wine from harmful influences. Here are the major dangers you need to be aware of to help keep your collection in tip top condition:
I'm all for cooking with wine (and by that I mainly mean drinking whilst cooking) but what you don't want to do is "cook" or spoil your wine by exposing it to temperatures in excess of 25°C (77 °F) for prolonged periods. In that respect, home cellars should never be built next to a direct heat source such as a fireplace or furnace.
At the other end of the scale, too cold and your beloved tipple can freeze which not only plays havoc with the cork, but it also introduces oxygen into the wine, a big no no should that exposure prove to be too great.
So what is the perfect temperature? A subject perhaps debated more than the chicken and the egg, it is however safe to say that wine can be stored satisfactorily between 7–18 °C (45–64 °F) with the perfect temperature for storing an ageing wine argued to be 13°C (55 °F).
Much like my hair in the summer, humidity can also cause dreadful issues for wine. Under dry conditions, corks can become susceptible to damage which is why you should never age wine in a normal refrigerator and indeed why bottles should always be positioned horizontally, ensuring that the wine is always in contact with the cork.
On the flip side, leave your wine in conditions that are too damp and you run the risk of labels becoming damaged which is bad news for valuable wines as it will more than likely affect the investment value.
Regulating wine cellar humidity levels is often the hardest environmental consideration to control, especially if the cellar is in a dry climate. 75% Relative Humidity is widely considered optimal however anything between 50% and 75% is more than adequate.
Damp basement cellars or dank caves make the perfect passive wine cellar. So called passive as there is no need to mechanically regulate either the temperature or the humidity, the natural environment does all that hard work for you leaving you to just pour and enjoy. It's safe to say we all now know what Batman gets up to when he's not fighting crime.
Less ideal climates will require an official title of active wine cellar, where the ambient temperature and humidity have to be controlled. Techniques range from the simple i.e covering the cellar floor in gravel and periodically sprinkling it with water, to the more advanced method of enclosing your space and using a modern climate control system.
It's perhaps not surprising to learn that wine is photo sensitive. Light causes pigments in red wines to fade whilst those in white wines will darken. To avoid, simply ensure that your cellar is in a dark location and away from sunlight. If you do need to install artificial lights in your cellar, make sure they are UV free.
There’s no such thing as good vibrations in the world of wine. A maturing wine should be kept free from all vibrations which is why typically, you won’t find a wine cellar built directly underneath a staircase. Good news for Harry Potter.
It’s also an important point to consider when investing in a decent wine fridge. Entry level wine fridges are likely to have an inferior quality motor which produce a higher degree of vibration.
Freedom from Persistent Smells
Good airflow and ventilation are very important to protect your wine against any persistent smells which could affect it. Smells emanating from certain woods, lacquers and stainers are often the guilty offenders so be sure to seek specialist advice from wine cellar designers and builders who will source only the best materials, specifically fit for purpose.
It's vitally important to secure your collection against potential theft from either unwanted intruders or even worse, so called friends who decide to help themselves and crack open your prized vintage. Forgive and forget? I'm neither Jesus nor do I have Alzheimer's.
Anyway, from simple locks to finger print recognition technology or full-scale surveillance systems, the choice is completely yours.
The Home of Fine Wine
From design conception to construction completion, the real fun begins when it's time to stock up and fill that beautiful new cellar full of beautiful wine. Of course any great wine cellar should be home to only the finest wines and who better to turn to than my favourite, Sotheby's Wines.
Sotheby's Wines (yes, as in Sotheby's International Realty) offer a full range of buying and selling services with a strong focus on sourcing excellent wines, in pristine condition and from impeccable sources. Furthermore, they can now sell directly to the public at a fixed price and in whatever quantity you would like.
There truly is a wine cellar to suit all homes and tastes, from luxurious opulence to sleek modern lines. To help you with your design inspiration, we've collected together a few of our favourite homes from Homeadverts' luxury real estate listings in order to showcase some of the most exciting wine cellars available.
Let the wine do the talking in a simplistic room designed with floor to ceiling linear wine racks. A good door, which is often the most over-looked component, should not only give your room a wow factor, but also needs to be fit for purpose with compression seals and thermal glass to combat warping and twisting.
The Tasting Room
The symmetry between the wine racks and ceiling design is just stunning in this underground wine cellar and dedicating a wall with space to hold crates breaks up a bottle heavy design. Opting for a large table and chairs over a central island provides the perfect space to enjoy the fruits of your labour.
The Romanticist's Cellar
Good wine and good company are two of life's greatest pleasures and this gem of a wine cellar is cosy, intimate and beautifully dressed to create the perfect romantic setting. For the record, I would not be creeped out in the slightest if someone were to invite me to this cellar.
The Glass Room
Seamless glass rooms and wine cellars provide the ultimate modern look for your wine collection. They don’t need to take up vast amounts of space and provide a stunning statement centrepiece for your room.
The Traditional Stone Cellar
I’m a big fan of the simplicity of a traditional stone wall wine cellar. There’s something very rustically romantic about the wire racks, the total lack of natural light and the stone walls and floors. Untouched and original, I'm virtually blowing the cobwebs off myself.
This curved wine room offers a beautifully contrasting wood finish with both individual and mixed storage spaces together with an independent central island for showcasing your most spectacular bottles. I can well image the visual trickery of this curve after one too many glasses.
The Wine Room
Gone are the days when a wine cellar means it has to actually be in the cellar and thank goodness when you see this stunning cellar and see how it becomes a natural part of the living area of the home. Not only does it look beautiful, but it also saves you walking too far when you need a new bottle over dinner.
The Dank Cellar
This wine cellar does everything you need it to do but without any of the fancy pants designs. The natural environment provides the perfect ambience and temperature and there's plenty of space for your collection. That chair has my name all over it.
I love everything about this room, from the curved walls, to the domed ceiling and of course that ever so handy rolling ladder which ensures that no bottle is ever out of reach.
The Modern Wine Cellar
Achieve the ultimate wow factor with a central glass room within a room to show off your collection from all angles. Perfect climate control, ample storage and an abundance of seating, this wine cellar could be the ultimate in luxury hang outs.
To explore even more stunning wine cellars, check out this wonderful video produced by Sotheby's International Realty. More inspiration than you can shake a stick at.
Want to have your own wine cellar custom made?
If your tastebuds have been well and truly tickled by the thought of having your own wine cellar then you're going to need the help of the experts to turn that vision in to a reality. Leading companies from around the world in this field include:
- Genuwine Cellars. Located in the United States, Genuwine Cellers not only have one the best business names ever, but they are also the source and inspiration of this article. Standing at the forefront of this industry for nearly twenty years, Genuwine Cellars are proudly redefining the art and science of wine cellaring.
- Carlo Garn Wine Storage. With a head office in the United Kingdom, Carlo Garn have experience of hundreds of wine cellar projects and the quality and design of the product are rated among the very best in the world.
- Custom Wine Cellars Vancouver. As Canada's leading wine display builders, Custom Wine Cellars works in partnership with Blue Grouse Wine Cellars to create durable and efficient wine storage solutions that look beautiful and are worthing of showing off.
Where To See More
All the extraordinary homes featured in this article are, at the time of writing, available to purchase through the Sotheby’s International Realty network. Please click the photos for full listing information.You can also follow our dedicated Pinterest board for continuous updates on Homeadverts listings featuring extraordinary wine rooms.
Want to improve your wine knowledge?
If you dread being asked to sample the wine at the table or don't know how to pour wine without dripping, then Wine Folly is the site for you. Wine Folly offers articles, tips and videos that will round out your wine knowledge and save you from some potentially embarrassing situations. Based in Seattle, the Wine Folly team travel around the world to curate the best wine values and the most awesome stories about wineries, regions and winemakers. Pour a glass and indulge yourself.