The Art of Fermenting Fruit
Wine & Mead Making Tips & Recipe's from around the world

The Home Wine Cellar

When you are passionate about wine you begin collecting it. Sometimes you sign up for a wine enthusiast club and now are collecting rare wines. As your collection grows, you need a place to store it all. A cupboard can without difficulty be redesigned into a space saving wine cabinet to age your valuable collection.

A few factors must be considered first, before you initiate building the wine cellar. For instance where is the closet in relation to the rest of the house? Avoid converting a closet against an outside wall into a wine cellar. Temperature, temperature, temperature, outside walls make it very hard to keep this steady as they face the elements. Choose an internal closet where your wine can be stored in a more stable atmosphere.
Your wine will age well if you keep close tabs on the temperature within the cellar, this is critical. Don’t stress if at some times of the year the temp is higher and at other times it is lower, this is acceptable as long as it is a slow shift. If this happens over and over again, gradually the wine inside will be ruined as well. Temperature fluctuations are to be avoided at all costs when it comes to storing wine. You’ll notice damage of this nature straight away. Look for the sticky deposit that often forms around the capsule. Over time the continual expansion and contraction of the wine will damage the integrity of the cork. Each time the temperature changes, the cork is essentially pulled out and put back in. When this happens, minute quantities of wine may be pushed out along the edge of the cork allowing air to seep back in. While it is usually good to expose wine to the air, as it brings out more flavor, it’s the last thing you want when aging wine. Your wine is ruined. It is best if your wine stays in the range of 54-57 degrees to properly age. Higher temperatures will age wine more rapidly and cooler temperatures will slow down the ageing process. Irreversible damage will be done if your wine is kept at a temperature above 82ºF for even a month.

Make sure you have a vapor barrier in the closet. Mold like the humid environments that are good for wine. Also think about a high quality wine cooler for keeping tabs on the humidity and temperature.

After the designing comes the constructing. Building a wine cellar is lots of fun! You will need to purchase a few essential items. Purchase some inexpensive wine racks from a hardware store or online retailer or storage shop. With some cheap racks you’ll have a simple but very effective mini wine cellar. Wine rack designs will vary in bottle density. Price variations are more to do with aesthetics than efficiency. Individual racking is the most convenient for selecting bottles. A good idea is to have racks against only one wall of the closet. Then you may still have floor or shelf space available for wines that you purchase by the case. Constructing a custom wine cellar on a budget is simple and easy at home. Go for function over design to save money. Let your wine speak for itself.

A small addition, that will bring so much pleasure down the road!

Wine Cooler and Refrigeration Units
When constructing your wine cellar, you must take into account the temperature and humidity levels in the room or area you are storing wine. A wine cellar must maintain constant levels of humidity and temperature in order for the wine to age properly and not sour or be damaged. A wine cooler or wine refrigeration system is essential to any wine cellar. Wine coolers and chillers can come in many different forms, from in-wall or in-column chillers, coolers that can be stored under a table and out of sight, to standalone air conditioning units. Regardless of the form your wine cooler takes, its importance is not to be minimized or left out entirely.

The size and amount of wine in your wine cellar will dictate what kind of wine cooler you will need. It goes without saying that as your bottle capacity increases, so does the price of the chiller as it has more room and materials to maintain at a constant temperature. Optimum wine cellar temperature and humidity is discussed in another article, for now we will be looking at sizes, prices, and kinds of wine refrigeration systems. Wine coolers start at around $100, and can cool around 6 bottles of wine. If your collection is larger (and likely it is) then you will be looking at more expensive units. $300-$400 will get you a wine cooler that can refrigerate up to 35 bottles or so, this is good if you have a wine cabinet or wine pantry where you store your collection. However, if you are designing a large wine cellar or wine room then you will need to look into the heavier duty options. There is no specific upper price limit when it comes to pricing out a quality wine cooler, although as the size and value of your wine collection increases, the necessary quality or your wine storage system increases as well.

High quality wine coolers control the temperature and humidity using a digital temperature controller wired to a thermostat. In order to ensure consistent humidity and true temperature, be sure not to instal the thermostat near the door that you enter and leave from and away from any air vents or circulators that may affect the immediate temperature. More elaborate wine refrigeration systems can also be installed, chillers and air circulation systems are often a must in the higher quality wine rooms. Custom wine coolers can also be designed that are both ornate and functional, serving to compliment the decor of the wine cellar, though these usually inhabit the realm of very expensive to abhorrently expensive. Maintaining the proper temperature and humidity in a wine cellar is of utmost importance, be sure you understand what is required and how much it will cost so you do not skimp on this important portion of wine cellar

Proper Ventilation In Wine Cellars
Ventilation can be damaging to wines because it can upset the delicate temperature balance in the cellar. While gentle air currents in themselves are of little consequence, the danger arises when these currents vary the temperature in all or part of the cellar. In particular, artificial cooling units have a tendency to introduce cold air currents.

There needs to be a compromise here. On the one hand, moving air can be a necessity in maintaining a stable temperature throughout the cellar. In doing so, however, the air should not be of such a temperature, or moved so quickly, as to cause rapid fluctuations in bottle temperature. This naturally presupposes that the temperature can vary in different parts of the cellar, and this in itself should be avoided if possible. Where absolute perfection cannot be attained, it is sufficient to ensure that stiff breezes directed at the bottles are avoided, particularly if they have the potential to change the bottle temperature.

There will always be sceptics who challenge the significance of a good cellar. The evidence presented will be anecdotal and subjective. Invariably, a particular old bottle will be cited, having been stored under imperfect conditions, consumed at a ripe old age, and praised wholeheartedly. My response is simple: These critics may never know just how much better that bottle could have been.

Maintaining The Levels of Light In A Wine Cellar
The very best underground cellars are cold, incredibly stable, moist and dank, and of course, very dark. Wines are creatures of the night, emerging from their long hibernation for just one moment of glory. But that moment will be less than glorious if the wine has spent its hibernation continually on display.

It has been verified that exposure to light produces chemical reactions in wine that cause it to deteriorate. In particular, ultraviolet light has the greatest effect, and white wines and champagnes are the most vulnerable. Amber-coloured bottles provide very good protection, but regrettably these have long ago fallen out of fashion to their much less protective clear and green counterparts. Consequently, the best solution is to keep the cellar in complete darkness whenever it is unattended. Intermittent artificial light will have minimal effect, but daylight should be avoided.

Watching The Vibration Levels In A Wine Cellar
If you are able to satisfy the demands of the first four conditions for cellaring wines, you are doing very well indeed. The last two are of lower consequence, but are worth considering for the best results. The first of these is the avoidance of disruption to the wines, both in the form of movement of the bottles and of vibration.

Guigal is the most important producer in the famous Côte-Rôtie region of France’s Rhone Valley. Outgrowing its 300-year-old cellars in Ampuis, it recently embarked on an enormous construction project. The result is almost two hectares of cellar caverns, climate controlled to 13oC and 80% relative humidity. This proved to be something of an engineering nightmare, with the facility sandwiched between the mighty Rhone river and a train line on one side, and a main road on the other. The finished product not only supports the road, but also Guigal’s production facility, with a mass of some five tonnes per square metre!

Traffic rumbling across the top of the cellar is detrimental to the wine. Understanding this requires a little insight into the way in which wine develops. Put simply, the chemical processes in the wine produce larger and more complex molecules that eventually fall out of the solution as sediment. Under stable conditions, these are able to settle along the bottom of the bottle or barrel, allowing the wine to develop fully. Movement disrupts this process, stirring the sediment and mixing it throughout the wine.

The solution at Guigal was to construct an advanced anti-vibration system throughout the entire cellar structure. While most of us do not have the problem of trucks rumbling over our wine collection at home, vibration can still pose a threat. Mechanical cooling units are prime culprits.

Further to this problem, there are extreme phenomena such as ‘travel shock’, which the wine can experience after extended transportation. It may take weeks or even months to settle before it is again at its best. Closely related is ‘bottle shock’, where the wine takes some time to recover from the bottling process.

Add new comment

Search Google