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Thinking of having a wine cellar in your home?

By Waverly Atkinson

It’s no news that having a wine cellar in the home is a hot property trend.

As our appreciation for fine wine increases so too does the need to protect it, firstly to preserve your financial investment but perhaps even more importantly, to ensure that when you open the wine that it is “fresh” and delicious.  After all, no one wants that dull sensation you can experience with a poorly stored bottle of wine.

Tania MacPhee, Managing Director of EuroCave Australiahas been involved in the design and construction of hundreds of wine cellars over 15 years.  She’s seen many cellars built without the proper insulation, equipment or technical knowledge needed to do the job properly. Lots of good wine has been ruined and money wasted this way.

It is critical to give due consideration to your cellar design and equipment early in the planning stage. If you are thinking about adding a wine cellar, Ms MacPhee shares these tips on what to consider now to avoid costly reworking down the track.

A wine cellar must recreate the ideal environmental conditions for your wine

Many people we speak to believe that placing wine racks in a room makes it a wine cellar and this is simply not the case.  For wine to mature as the wine maker intended, and to provide you with maximum drinking enjoyment, it is essential that a cellar provides the perfect environmental conditions. There are five conditions that need to be recreated: a consistent, low temperature of around 140C all year round, high humidity of around 70 per cent, fresh airflow, minimal vibration, and heat and UV-free lighting.  To achieve this, there are many technical specifications involved and using the correct equipment is vital.

A purpose-built cellar conditioner such as the Inoa will create four of the five essential conditions for a wine cellar. In contrast, a standard air conditioner is generally not cold enough (often not operating below 180C) and can reduce humidity within the cellar which is detrimental to wine.

A cellar must also be properly insulated with the right type of material. This allows the cellar conditioner to function efficiently and reduces the amount of energy used. Insulating is easy and less expensive if planned at the beginning of construction but can be very costly if it has to be corrected or added later. If a glass wall or door is to be incorporated for aesthetic appeal, then double-glazed and argon-filled glass with an energy or UV coating must be used.

The best location for a wine cellar is not underground

It is a common misconception that wine cellars are best located underground. Many of us romanticise the idea of a cellar on the subterranean ‘caves’ that we picture in the wine regions in Europe. When building a wine cellar in an Australian home, we need to think a little differently.

Firstly, traditional underground cellars have metres of earth protecting them around the perimeter and above the cellar to keep the space cool. This is virtually never the case in Australia and consequently underground cellars do not stay cool enough or maintain a consistent temperature. In summer, these spaces can become hot boxes and the result is cooked wine. Then they become cooler in the winter months, and this variation in temperature is detrimental to wine.

Secondly, if we accept that even underground cellars require climate control equipment, then we need to allow for ducting to an external area.  This is often more difficult if the space is underground. In fact, given these factors, the ideal position for a cellar in the home is actually at ground level against an exterior wall.

Consider both aesthetics and functionality when fitting out your wine cellar

It is important to consider both aesthetics and functionality when fitting out your cellar. Think about how you would like the cellar to look as well as how you will use the space. Remember that lighting must be heat and UV-free such as LED, as bright lights can have a harmful impact on wine. If pendants are desired, ensure that they are not the only light source and are only turned on for short periods of time while you are in the cellar. Warm amber lighting combined with darker walls creates a lovely ambience.

When deciding on wine racking, think about whether single bottle or bulk storage is most useful for your collection, and whether you want to maximise capacity or use an area to display bottles. We’ve seen a lot of people spend a lot of money on racking that might look great but doesn’t function properly or take a wine collector’s needs into consideration. As a result, people become quite frustrated with their cellar.

Finally, the above list is by no means exhaustive. There are a myriad of other factors and technical aspects to consider when planning a wine cellar for your home. Probably the best advice we can give is to get professional advice early in the planning stage. If you engage an expert early in the project, you will overcome a lot of problems and you will have the dream cellar you’ve always wanted.

EuroCave Australia has a team of experts that can help you.h

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