7 Common Wine Cellar Design Mistakes

wine cellar storage

After years of settling for premature wines and expensive vintages, it’s finally time to build and enjoy your very own wine cellar storage.

While designing and building a wine cellar is very exciting, there are also some very important design factors to consider—many of which are often overlooked. Before you break ground or lay down your most promising Bordeaux, be sure to consider these common wine cellar construction and design mistakes.

1. Inadequate climate control

Climate control is the paramount concern in any wine cellar. After all, it’s the very reason we cellar wine in the first place.

Where traditional cellars used the Earth’s constant underground climate to maintain proper storage conditions, modern cellars now use specialized climate control technology. While the devices can vary in type (and price), the goal is to control two key elements:

  • Temperature: Though cellar temperatures can vary between 45° and 75° Fahrenheit, 55° is considered ideal. Any hotter and your wine runs the risk of becoming “cooked,” which can lead to flat flavors and aromas. Any cooler and the resulting drop in moisture could dry out corks and lead to spoilage.
  • Humidity: Wine bottles benefit from high humidity—70 percent and up—to prevent dry corks. However, unless you live in a particularly dry climate, there’s not a big risk that changes in humidity will dry out corks sufficiently enough to result in spoilage (also known as “corked” wine). Some form of humidity control is still nice to have, especially if your means of temperature control also dehumidifies.

But how to keep a wine cellar cool? Maintaining these conditions requires adequate insulation. Wine cellar insulation requirements vary between climates but should include the following at a minimum:

  • Vapor barrier (with seams taped and overlapped)
  • 3 ½” R-13 wall insulation (though 6” is ideal)
  • 6” R-13 ceiling insulation
  • Floor insulation and/or vapor barrier (depending on your cellar floor)

Once complete, you should regularly monitor your wine cellar’s climate using a digital thermometer and hygrometer. These tools are usually available in a single unit or pre-installed in most climate control systems.

2. Storing your bottles upright

As we saw in the last section, keeping your corks hydrated is crucial to avoid spoilage. While climate control is vital for this, so is the way you store your bottles.

When choosing a wine rack for cellar storage, make sure it allows you to store the bottles horizontally rather than vertically. While the vast majority of wine shelving is built this way, many first-time wine collectors make the mistake of storing their bottles upright. In doing so, the cork is no longer in contact with the wine, increasing the chance of it drying out and leading to corkage.

3. Waiting until you have “enough” bottles

Just because you don’t have 1,000 bottles doesn’t mean you can’t—or shouldn’t—build a 1,000-bottle cellar. In fact, it’s often best to build early so you can collect and age new vintages over time.

Unfortunately, many new wine collectors feel they need a cellar’s worth of bottles before they can justify building an actual cellar. This not only puts off construction almost indefinitely, but it also leaves very little room for flexibility while neglecting the vintages they already have.

4. Leaving it undecorated

While not decorating your cellar isn’t exactly a design mistake, a few small details can transform an otherwise utilitarian space into an incredible entertaining space.

As wine is the focal point of any cellar, you probably won’t have to worry about decorating the walls. However, you may want to invest in a small table and chairs for tastings, and perhaps even a recessed shelf for “staging” wines before drinking.

Other modern wine cellar ideas include floor and ceiling finishes, ambient lighting, and, as we’ll see in the next section, the cellar door.

5. Choosing the wrong door

Glass wine cellar door

After hyper-focusing on insulation and climate control, many people make the mistake of installing just any old door into their cellar—only to render their insulation and climate control nearly useless.

Just like the rest of your cellar surfaces, it’s crucial to ensure that the door is highly insulated. In fact, since doors present air gaps, they’re probably one of the most crucial parts of your cellar to insulate.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to settle for some bulky, industrial-grade door with no aesthetic value. Many wine cellar doors are specially made to be both beautiful and efficient.

6. Not organizing your wine collection

Designing and building a cellar is the perfect opportunity to organize (or reorganize) your wine collection. While it may be tempting to just put up a bunch of shelving units, knowing what you drink and what you plan to age can help make the most of your space.

For example, you may choose to group different shelving units by different types of wine, such as one unit for Bordeaux and another for Burgundy. With a rough idea of how many bottles you intend to lay down, you can organize and design your shelf space accordingly.

7. Improper shelving

Millesime showcase wine rack

From storing wine horizontally to keeping everything organized, proper shelving is essential for proper aging.

In addition to storing bottles in the right position, a wine rack for cellar storage should also allow for adequate air flow around the bottles. This ensures that every bottle enjoys the same climate, avoiding temperature or humidity issues in isolated areas.

Wine Racks America carries shelving and wine racking units for cellars of all sizes. With a wide range of sizes backed by top-quality materials, our shelves will help you make the most of your valuable vintages.

For more information on our shelving units as well as our cooling units and doors, contact a Wine Racks America representative at 888-373-6057.

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