Things to Consider When Building a Wine Cellar

Points to Consider When Buying a Custom Wine Cellar

Building a custom wine cellar used to be the privilege of the rich, but that is no longer the case. Unique, tailor-made wine cellars are more accessible than ever and are a fast-growing trend in new home construction.
Still, to say that a custom-designed, -constructed and -installed wine cellar has become totally inexpensive would be inaccurate, so if you’re at all planning on taking the plunge, it pays to do your due diligence.

To that end, we’ve provided this list of points to consider before buying a custom wine cellar. We love wine and we love wine lovers, so whether you choose us or not, what’s more important is that you end up with a cellar that you will not only cherish but one that will protect your wine investment over the long term. We’ve had to rescue and restore many poorly constructed wine cellars built by contractors, architects and designers who were ill-informed about wine and wine cellaring, however, we’d prefer that you get it right the first time!

Don’t be overwhelmed by the following list. The objective isn’t to make you an expert on wine cellar construction, but rather to empower you when the time comes to choosing the company you want to build your wine cellar. The information here will get you asking the right questions, and will give you a notion of whether the answers you’re getting back sound legitimate, or not so much.

1) Get acquainted with the general principles of proper wine cellaring
The more you know about proper wine cellaring, the better informed you’ll be when making a decision about which company to go with. Read through our guide: Wine Cellaring: General Principles to give you a solid base. It will give you an idea of where a potential cellar could and could not go in your home, and will also arm you with a set of questions to ask any potential builder.

2) Do your research on the company you’re thinking of choosing.
There is a common misconception among designers, architects, contractors, and carpenters that a wine cellar is merely a dressed up ‘closet for wine,’ and therefore easy to design and easy to construct. The vital fact that they all overlook is that wine is a living organism, which is to say it’s always changing and susceptible to damage from a number of sources. Valentini’s was born out of a love for wine and we know wine—how it ages, how it’s best stored, what can damage it, etc. Before you commit to any company, ask them if they’ve made wine cellars in the past, and better yet ask them what they know about wine storage in general. Ask what is the proper wine cellar temperature for long term wine storage (55 degrees) and the specifics about what type of insulation they use. If they don’t know these basic rules, interview someone else.

3) Get a feel for a company’s wine cellar design acumen.
Again, anyone can build a fancy room to store wine, but inexperience in this particular niche can negatively impact your potential cellar, often in ways that you may have never even considered. For instance, we pride ourselves on revolutionary cellar designs but that also ensures that each and every cellar is also constructed with maximum bottle capacity in mind with various price options. Our repertoire also includes knowledge of various racking designs and options, which enables us to create a wine cellar that can grow over time as your collection and habits evolve; just because you aren’t collecting by the case today doesn’t mean you won’t be in five years, and your cellar should be able to grow with you. The average designer without a wine background may not even consider case storage, or wine racks for magnums or half bottles. You may also want to ask them to provide information on where they have been published or articles written about their work.

4) Ask questions about materials.
Contractor A may offer a better price, but are they using only cheaper softwood to build your cellar, which will nick and mark up almost instantly? They may call their Redwood “Premium” which is actually the sapwood cut away from the All Heart Redwood and has varying colors from white to pink. Designer B may suggest a beautiful Danish oil to finish your cellar, but do they realize that the fumes of the oil will accumulate in your cellar until its uninhabitable and all the wine is spoiled? Architect C may draw up stunning plans for a glass-enclosed cellar not realizing that glass IS NOT an insulator and therefore, will require twice the regular size cooling unit (BTUs) which is more expensive, will greatly increase your electric bill and burn out your compressor years before its time.

5) Consider the door!
The door is the most overlooked component of the cellar, which is strange since it is the weakest point in any enclosed wine cellar. If the company suggests a regular door, be very wary. Under proper cellar conditions, a regular interior door will warp and bend. and not seal off the room. If they suggest an exterior grade door, that’s better, but are they taking special measures to ensure a proper seal with weather stripping and a threshold. You don’t have to spend an extreme amount of money on a custom designed door unless you wish. An exterior grade door can be purchased at Lowe’s, Home Depot, etc. and will come standard with a double thermopane glass insert.
Ultimately, it is wise to do this research up front because of the unique nature of wine cellar construction. In particular because it is possible to receive a stunningly beautiful cellar that will surely please on Day 1, but that may be faulty and not so pleasing on day 300 when mold has consumed the racks and spoiled the wine.

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