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Wine Cellar Designer

Wine is a living organism, and like all living organisms, and like all living things, it requires a specific type of environment in order to age properly. Aging is a term for the biochemical change that happens within the wine. Whether that change is for the better or for the worse, relies on the storage conditions of the wine. There are four main factors to consider when planning your cellar: constant temperature, humidity, darkness, and lack of vibration. Please NO odors from food or paint in the cellar, it will penetrate through the cork and spoil the wine as well. Stability is the key to proper wine storage.

It is imperative that the temperature of the cellar remain CONSTANT. Experts vary in their beliefs of the ideal cellar temperature. Recommendations range from 55 - 60° F. The cooler the temperature, the slower the aging process. A cool constant temperature (we recommend 55° F) insures the wine will age slowly and predictably, enhancing all the desirable characteristics of age while protecting the fragile elements such as fruitiness (this includes white AND red wine). So, do NOT shut off or turn down the refrigeration when you're in the cellar; put on a jacket and save your wine!

In addition to maintaining a cool constant temperature, refrigeration is needed to maintain both temperature and proper humidity level (somewhere between 50 percent to a maximum of 70 percent). The corks need the dampness in order to stay wet and keep the wine properly sealed. Normal air conditioning will extract the moisture from the cellar. This will cause the corks to dry and will allow liquid to escape from the bottle and air to enter. On the flip side, you do not want a dripping wet cellar. This will cause the labels to rot and fall off the bottles. Without those precious labels, the wine is virtually worthless at auction.

Again, the key to proper wine storage is stability. Temperature and humidity have to be kept at a CONSTANT level. Proper refrigeration is the best way to insure this. A refrigerated cellar is called an active cellar, while a natural cellar is often referred to as a passive cellar. Depending on where you live you may opt for a passive cellar (London perhaps?) but this is very uncommon in this country. But even if you art not a serious collector, you want the best aging conditions. If you intend to auction off your collection, all catalogs and auction houses will demand proof of storage in a properly cooled wine cellar so that buyers may take this important factor into account.

This brings us to the final two elements, darkness and stillness. Wine should always be kept away from direct sunlight because ultraviolet radiation destroys its color and flavor. The ideal wine cellar should be softly lit ( UV free) when occupied by the wine enthusiast and otherwise left in complete darkness. This why an all glass wine cellar or glass walls are never recommended for the safety of the wine and the longevity of the refrigeration unit . Restaurants can be the exception in order to show off their wine offerings to the public and the fast turnover of the wine in storage. We strongly recommend only a very limited amount of glass in a cellar, usually in the exterior grade door which has framing. Frameless doors do not seal in the cooled air and if used, will nullify the warranty on the cooling system. Vibration can rob many wines of flavor and bouquet so there should be no vibration from traffic on the street above, the subway below, or from a motor running the refrigeration. A wine closet below your staircase falls into this category so not always the best location in your home. Also be aware that a wine cellar should not have odor from food or off-gasses from stain or oil based paint.

If you are interested in a wine cellar and would like to learn more about the importance of proper wine storage, please contact us.