Building a Wine Cellar
Imagine walking down the stairs into your well-stocked, beautifully crafted wine cellar. Bottles are carefully stored in racks according to your organizational preference, and the temperature is a perfectly balanced 55 degrees Fahrenheit. For wine lovers, this is what living the dream looks like (maybe just short of a 100-point scoring bottle of wine).
Building a Wine Cellar
While it may seem daunting, it is very possible to build a wine cellar in your space on just about any budget.
Our “Building A Wine Cellar” guide will give you ideas on how to tackle construction yourself and point you in the right direction for hiring our builders.
History of Wine Cellars
Wine cellars have been around for a long time, and we mean a LONG TIME. The wine itself has been around since 6000 BCE, and civilization has been perfecting the art of making and storing wine since then.
The first known wine cellar was found in the Canaanite city of Tel Kabri, which was destroyed around 3600 years ago. Of course, it may have been rudimentary, but it still kept wines cool and protected them from the sun.
Roman wine cellars are the next known progression in cellar making. The Romans would build fumantories, which were rooms adjacent to kitchens. These rooms were filled with smoke to force out oxygen, further preserving wines. While this method worked for a while, the heat and humidity of these rooms were not ideal for keeping wine long-term.
Eventually, wine was moved underground into the catacombs and underground tombs, unlocking the key to wine preservation.
The French probably made the biggest contribution to cellaring wine. They were the first to build purpose-built underground storage for wines. Some of these were repurposed from old mining caves; others were cellars under homes.
As the French experimented more and more with winemaking and storage, their methods propagated throughout Europe, and many of our storage standards are rooted in the French’s methods.
Over time, wine cellars have become more and more effective at protecting wine from the elements. As technology has improved, controlling the conditions has become less complicated. This allows for wine cellar design to be more focused on aesthetics, showcasing the beauty of your wine collection.
What Is a Wine Cellar?
Before we dig into the intricacies of building a wine cellar, it is important to know EXACTLY what a wine cellar does and how it accomplishes its goals of preserving your wine collection. Simply put, a wine cellar is a storage room for wine in bottles and barrels.
Because of the finicky nature of wine, it must be kept in perfect conditions to keep wine from spoiling. These conditions are:
- 55 Degrees Fahrenheit: Cooler temperatures won’t hurt your wine but can slow down its flavor development.
- 65 Percent Humidity: Ideal humidity is anything between 60 and 70 percent. Any more and your bottles are more susceptible to mold
- Away from direct light, heat, and vibration.
There are a variety of ways to reach perfect conditions, but there are two main types of wine cellars that we will discuss. Active wine cellars and passive wine cellars.
1. Passive Wine Cellars
These are more naturally built cellars with no environmental control. They must be located in naturally cool/damp areas with very little seasonal variation. A good example of a passive wine cellar is a basement in a temperate climate.
2. Active Wine Cellars
Active wine cellars use technology to achieve the perfect conditions for storing wine. Typically active cellars are highly insulated and take quite a bit of planning before construction begins. Specialized air conditioning and humidifying systems are used to maintain the desired climate.
Picking a Spot for Your Wine Cellar
Because of the seasonality of western North Carolina weather, building an active wine cellar is most likely the way to go. But where is the perfect spot in your home for an active wine cellar? Location is the most important factor when it comes to budgeting for your project.
Your wine storage should be in a room with no direct sunlight and little temperature fluctuations. Basements, large closets, and under the stairs are good starting points.
If you have the space in your living area, you can also build a wine room, which is simply wine storage that is built in your typical living space, much like a pantry. These are typically more expensive to construct due to the fact that you must mitigate the effects of direct sunlight.
Building Your Wine Cellar
Once you have chosen a spot for your wine cellar, it is time to start preparing for your build. Your goal is to be able to control all aspects of the environment so that wine can be aged and stored properly.
This room will be where your priceless collection of wine will be stored. Make sure to check for any air, water, or light leaks, and take note.
1. Vapor Barrier
After you have taken note of any odd leaks or issues, it’s time to begin installing a vapor barrier. A vapor barrier is commonly plastic sheets that are installed behind the insulation. This acts as an initial barrier to keep humidity out, which could damage your insulation and allow mold to grow inside your sealed cellar.
2. Seal the Floor
Starting with a concrete floor ensures that you can more easily control the conditions of your space. Concrete is less porous than wood floors, and is the easiest material to seal. Use a high-performance “penetrating sealer” such as epoxy or urethane to get the best and most attractive results.
3. Frame and Insulate the Walls
Now that you have a strong base to work with, it’s time to put up framing and insulate the walls. There are a variety of different framing methods, from using furring strips to 2x6s, however, the most important part is the insulation that is needed.
Make sure to spray foam any cracks in the concrete behind the walls, and use no less than R19 insulation in the walls and R30 insulation in the ceiling. If there is any electrical work needed in your cellar, make sure to hire an electrician that can complete it to code before insulation and drywall.
4. Wall Treatment and Aesthetics
Once you have built all of the infrastructures, you can begin working on the aesthetic qualities of your cellar. A wall treatment can be anything from painted drywall to beautiful stone and brickwork. As long as you have properly built and insulated your walls, you can go as crazy as you want to.
Wine racking is another part of the fun when designing your wine cellar. Choosing the right rack system is an essential finishing touch. There are a variety of different types of racks, whether they be traditional wooden wine racks or complete cellar systems.
Finally, installing a cellar door is the last piece of must-be-done work for your overall design of the cellar. When picking a cellar door, you must consider the overall design of the space, as well as the insulation that the door provides. While glass paneled doors are attractive, your room's overall R-value may drop. If you must go with glass, be sure to use a properly sealed thermal pane unit that is at least double-paned.
5. Cooling System
Regardless of aesthetics, budget, or location; your active wine cellar must have some form of cooling system to do things right. This machine will be the main point of your temperature-controlled storage area. Having a consistent temperature and humidity is essential to maintaining your cellar's climate and protecting your beloved collection.
There are a variety of different cooling units, of different sizes and outputs. The first thing you must do is to determine the cubic footage of your space, and contact an HVAC contractor. This part of the project can be done yourself, but with so many variables, it is important to pick the right piece of equipment.
6. Hire a Contractor
For some that are extra handy, building out a wine cellar in their own home is a rewarding experience. Coming home to something that you crafted by hand is a pretty special thing. However, not everyone has the skills or time to take on such a big project.
If you are located in Asheville, NC or greater Western North Carolina Wine Cellars of the Carolinas and Caveman Cellars are two wonderful options for those who want to hire a team to plan and build their home’s wine cellar.
Professional cellar builders have the expertise to build the perfect cellar for your budget and your home. They know all of the tricks to ensure that your wine collection is well protected, and develops correctly over time.
Fill Your Cellar With Wines from Metro Wines
Wine cellars are an absolute joy to own, and even more, fun to fill! If you are feeling adventurous, we at Metro Wines have a variety of incredible wines across a wide spectrum of grapes, qualities, and vintages. From inexpensive table wines to uncommon bottles like the Château Cheval Blanc St. Emilion Grand Cru, we carry it all.
We provide a variety that can bring everyone together over a bottle of wine since we think that wine is about community, family, and friends.
Metro Wines boasts a sizable wine range. Our wine experts are ready at all times to respond to your inquiries, suggest wine pairings, and coordinate with your caterer or event coordinator.
We also provide monthly social gatherings, weekly tastings, and wine classes. You can find information about our upcoming events, weekly tastings, and special occasions on our website. You can also check out our collection of wines here!