Keeping it chill – The lowdown on home wine cellars


An experienced contractor can help you achieve proper conditions for a home wine cellar.

In a previous article, I discussed the importance of proper wine storage. For those of you who don’t have my posts memorized (I’m crushed!), the basics of proper wine storage are temperature control (cool and consistent), humidity control, protection from direct sunlight and protection from vibration.

Unless you store your wine in a deep cellar, these conditions will not occur naturally. They can, however, be obtained through construction. A contractor I know who specializes in building home wine cellars confirmed how a qualified builder can help ensure you get the results you want.

Whether the wine cellar is part of the initial design of a house or is being retrofitted into an existing room, the first requirement is to find the dark and vibration-free location. After that, your builder can provide the rest through humidity controlled refrigeration, good insulation and an effective vapor barrier.

I am going to say that last one again: an effective vapor barrier. You need that to prevent moist air from entering the cellar. If it does, it meets the cooled air and condenses, resulting in mold that could damage your bottle labels, boxes and racks and possibly infect your home. Proper refrigeration to keep humidity at the optimal level and a good vapor barrier are required to protect your wine and prevent mold.

Temperature and humidity, though, are not the only important considerations. Proper lighting is important as well. Low heat lights, such as LED, are better than halogen or incandescent. Fluorescent lighting should be avoided not only due to heat, but also the high levels of UV rays that can damage wine. If the cellar is above grade, be sure the floor is sufficiently supported and does not collapse under the weight of the wine.

All set? Not quite. Your new, beautiful wine cellar depends on electricity to maintain the storage temperature of your wines, and you absolutely need to protect it against power outages. The service contract on the cooling system should include 48-hour site visit and remediation. A backup system, whether a generator or battery, can provide the short-term power needed to keep your cooling system running until the contractor gets there.

While all these considerations may seem daunting, they are routine to an expert wine cellar contractor. So, while you may be tempted to do it yourself (note that I said you might be tempted. I’m not!), with a valuable wine collection at stake, leaving it to the pros is probably a good idea.

This blog post is part of a continuing series offering advice on assembling and caring for a wine collection in your home. Additional information is available at the author’s website. See your local, independent insurance agent for advice on coverage to protect wine and other items of value.

© Copyright 2018 Neil Kaplan; used by permission.

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