Wine cellars are certainly not a necessity for most people. The average wine drinker who purchases a bottle or two of wine as needed for immediate or short term consumption certainly would not benefit from having a wine cellar. On the other hand, if you are someone who enjoys the art and science of fine wine and looks forward to purchasing quality wines that only get better with age, or if you like to buy multiple bottles of the same wine to save for another time, then wine cellaring may be right for you. Also, if you are building a high-end home or are remodeling an existing home in a high-end area, incorporating a wine cellar into your home’s design is a great way to add value and prestige to your property that will certainly help to check one more box on potential buyers’ “got to have” list.
Many people think that a cold room or cantina would be a perfect place to store wine. Unfortunately, in many parts of the world, that assumption would be wrong. A cold room or cantina is often one of the worst places to store wine (besides a kitchen) due to the often extreme temperature fluctuations that take place over the course of the year. Nothing is worse for proper wine preservation than large fluctuations in temperature. In addition, many cold rooms and cantinas do not maintain regular humidity levels either. Fluctuations in humidity levels can cause corks to dry out (which can then lead to oxidized wine) and/or excessive dampness can result in mold and mildew issues. On the bright side, a cold room or cantina can be converted into a proper wine cellar however, there is often more involved in doing so than in locating your cellar in another area of your home.
- how long you are planning to store your wine (short vs. long term)
- where the space is located within your home or establishment
- how much the temperature fluctuates in that area from day to day, or season to season
- the amount of space available
- your consumption/collecting habits
- reasons for wanting a wine room/cellar
- property style, etc.
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- have thorough knowledge and experience building wine cellars
- understand the size and scope of all phases and aspects of the project
- know how to effectively organize and schedule the project so that nothing is forgotten or overlooked
- know what types of products and materials are best suited for optimal wine preservation
- know what types of products and materials to avoid that may damage wine
- ensure and oversee the proper preparation and installation of all aspects of the room/cellar from concept to completion including: framing, insulation, vapour barrier, electrical, plumbing, cooling and racking systems, ceiling, wall, and floor finishes, lighting, doors, etc.
Answer: Generally, the more experience a builder has the better, however, keep in mind that sometimes companies get used to doing things a certain way (using certain materials, providers, etc.), especially if they’ve been around a long time. So if you are hoping to create a wine cellar that is unique or cutting edge, dealing with a company with too much experience can also be a negative. Mentioning the “climate controlled” element is sometimes a good way to ward off wine cellar imposters who may be reluctant to take on the responsibilities associated with properly preparing a room for use with a particular cooling system.
Question: Do you have a website?
Answer: In this day and age, most reputable companies should have a fully functioning website where you can read about the company’s philosophy, work ethic, services, testimonials and view pictures of their completed projects. If a company’s website fails to impress you, and you don’t get a good vibe from speaking with the company’s associates, I would certainly go no further. Companies who don’t invest much time or money into their image and customer service probably won’t invest much effort into your wine cellar either.
Question: Do you have an office or showroom that I can visit?
Answer: Although there are certainly some reputable wine cellar companies who do not have a formal office or showroom, it is always comforting to deal with people in a professional setting where you can meet to conduct business. Whenever possible, take the time to visit your builder at his/her office or showroom. Doing so will allow you to see how their associates present themselves and their business, and will undoubtedly leave you with an impression (positive or negative), to help you make your decision about whether or not they are the right company for you.
Question: Does your business only build wine cellars?
Answer: This question is key when selecting a wine cellar company because it will help you quickly determine what kind of business you are really dealing with. If a company’s primary focus is anything other than wine cellars, then you run the risk of spending a lot of money on something that the company doesn’t specialize in. This lack of specialization can result in misunderstandings, omissions, irregular timelines, quality control issues, oversights, errors, or shoddy workmanship. If your product is not their priority, then you might not be either.
Question: Would you be willing to give me a list of previous wine cellar customers that I can speak to as references (4 or 5 minimum)?
Answer: Companies with integrity who take pride in their business practices have no problem giving out the names and numbers of past clients who are willing to attest to the quality of their work. Take a few minutes to make the calls, ask some tough questions and go with your gut. If the company and references are legitimate, you’ll feel much better about your decision and be glad you did.
Question: Do you charge a design fee? What does it include?
Answer: Most reputable wine cellar companies charge some kind of design fee in order to open your file. The reasoning behind this is sound when you take into consideration all of the time and effort required to prepare a truly custom wine cellar design. The designer needs to visit the space, assess the property, get to know the client, compile information about the client (collecting history, habits, intentions, preferences, style, etc.), measure the space, formulate sketches, meet with the client again, make revisions, meet with the client again, source materials, create drawings or renderings, make adjustments, etc… all before an accurate quote can even be provided. If the company you are dealing with does not require a design fee, they are likely incorporating hidden costs into other areas of your room or cellar construction in order to compensate for time and effort expended during the design phase of the project.
Question: Are your wine cellars fully custom or do you use kit and/or modular racking systems?
Answer: Some companies who claim to build “custom” wine cellars actually use kit or modular racking systems in their designs. Not that there is anything wrong with using kit or modular racking in a wine cellar design, however, this should not really be considered a “custom” wine cellar, and should not carry the same price tag as a truly custom design that has been specifically created and/or manufactured for your project and space. When comparing quotes or designs between two or more companies, it is important to keep this significant distinction in mind.
Question: How long does it take to build a wine cellar?
Answer: The timelines involved with building a wine cellar can vary dramatically from a few days to a few months depending on the following:
- size and scope of the project
- complexity of design
- customer decisiveness
- stage of construction
- choice if materials
- availability of materials
- availability of specialized trades
- unexpected surprises or delays
Question: Do you provide any kind of written warranty or guarantee for after-market service?
Answer: Any company that claims to provide quality craftsmanship and excellent customer service should have no problem backing up their completed work with some kind of after-market warranty or guarantee. Make sure that you get your warranty/guarantee in writing and always take the time to read the fine print on any contract.
Question: Do you offer any wine management services using qualified wine experts and/or sommeliers to help me organize, catalogue, purchase or sell my wines?
Answer: Building a wine cellar is one thing, stocking and organizing it is a whole other matter. Working with a company who is able to help you do both will simplify the entire process and help ensure that your wine room/cellar will be properly stocked and organized in a way that works best for you.
- Light Exposure: avoid sunlight or incandescent lighting that can adversely affect the wine
- Humidity: consistent humidity levels between 65% to 75% are ideal
- Temperature: constant temperatures between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius (or 50 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit) are ideal
- Vibration: vibrations can alter wine chemistry so the less vibrations, the better
- Bottle Orientation: For most wines any bottle orientation that allows for at least 50% of the cork to be submerged (in order to stay moist) is fine. Storing bottles on their sides, angled down, angled up (no more than a 10 degrees) or even upside down works equally well. Sparkling wines or Champagnes however, tend to age better standing upright.
The ideal storage time for a bottle of wine depends entirely on the wine itself. Proper wine storage cannot make a bad wine taste good but it does ensure that the wines that you do purchase will be enjoyed to their fullest. Proper organization and cataloging of your wine collection is essential in order to keep track of your various wines’ life cycles and optimal drinking times.
- size and scope of the project
- choice of materials
- choice of finishes
- complexity of design (features, etc.)
- choice of cooling unit
- choice of racking system
- amount of room preparation and/or construction involved
- location of the wine room/cellar