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How to Build a Wine Cellar

Creating your own wine cellar might seem like a real challenge, but it’s the next step up from keeping your wines in a fridge or dedicated wine cooler. 

A perfect wine cellar is a place where you can preserve your wine bottles at the perfect temperature and control the ageing process. But building a wine cellar is only half the project – once you have an ideal storage space, you need to fill it! Keep reading for tips on how to organize your new wine cellar and choose your wines.

Planning your project

Begin your wine cellar building project by making a list of the most important factors in your plan. Would you prefer to install your cellar in your living room or set aside a specific room? Do you intend to store 20 bottles or 100 bottles? Do you prefer a traditional or contemporary style? Ask questions and note down your answers so you can be confident you are making the right decisions moving forward.

Other more technical parameters can also influence your choices. For example, if you install your wine cellar under a set of stairs, you may need to work harder to protect the bottles from vibrations. Installing a wine cellar in your basement may make this issue easier to solve. There are many factors that can affect the shelf life of your wine. 

If you think you might need help to avoid mistakes, it might be a good idea to hire a consultant. Since 1992, our specialized wine and wine accessories store has boasted an entire department dedicated to the design of custom wine cellars. Feel free to contact us for help bringing your project to life.

Creating the perfect wine cellar

A wine cellar should meet all the necessary conditions to properly store your wine bottles. If the ageing properties of a wine are respected, it can be preserved for many years. Here are the most important factors for an effective wine cellar:

  • Bottles must be held in a horizontal position
  • Temperature is controlled between 12 and 14 degrees Celsius
  • Between 50% and 80% humidity
  • Vibrations are minimal

Choosing wine cellar equipment

The size of your wine cellar will determine the type of equipment needed to maintain ideal storage conditions.

Choosing the right air conditioner

First, you’ll need a wine cellar air cooling system to maintain the right humidity level and temperature. You can learn more in our guide to choosing the right cooling system.

Finding the perfect bottle rack

Next, you’ll need to install wine racks. The key to proper wine storage is keeping the bottles horizontal so that the cork stays moist and prevents spoilage. With that in mind, you have the freedom to choose between installing wine racks or wine shelves. The final look of your cellar can be customized with the material you pick - wood for a classic touch or metal for a more modern feel. 

Selecting the best lighting

Last of all is lighting. To prevent sun or harsh light from affecting your wine's maturation, limit direct exposure. Opt for low-intensity LED lighting. These bulbs are a win-win: they're gentle on your wine and generate minimal heat, keeping your cellar cool.

With the above equipment, you should be able to meet all the aging conditions of your bottles. If you want to go even further in controlling temperature and humidity, we recommend investing in a Thermometer-hygrometer.

Choosing the right wines

Once you have built your cellar, it’s time to organize the contents. There is no perfect method for organizing a wine cellar, but here are a few suggestions for sorting your wine:

  • By grape variety
  • By wine colour
  • By wine type (apéritif, table wine, dessert wine, wine for aging, ready to drink, etc.)
  • By ageing period rather than vintage

When organizing your bottles, remember not to put your most treasured bottles of wine for keeping too far away, as they will be less accessible and you may even forget you have them when a special occasion comes your way.

If you choose to organize your collection according to wine colour, we generally recommend keeping 50% of your cellar for red wines. Set aside a further 25-30% for dry and sweet white wines, and 20% for rosés and champagnes. You may also want to set aside some space for sweet wines and spirits.

Of course, you can organize your collection in any way you want. Some people may even like to keep a book to track and record the contents of their wine cellar. Tasting a variety of wines is key to building a beautiful collection. As you explore different types, take notes on what excites your palate. This will help you curate a cellar filled with wines you truly love.

Building a wine cellar: a personal project

The design of a wine cellar is a really personal project. We build about forty wine cellars per year and we can tell you that no two projects are alike. Of course, the key factors will be similar, but the final outcome is always unique.

We hope this article has helped you make good decisions so you can build a wine cellar that suits you perfectly. Feel free to contact the team at Vinum Design to discuss your project and benefit from personalized advice.