Building a Home Wine Cellar
Perhaps a wine cabinet is not for you or you want more storage capacity. The only remaining option for you is to build a home wine cellar. There are three major components to your wine cellar: construction of the room, the refrigeration unit, and the racks that hold your wine.
so you can feel confident in your investment.
The Construction of Your Cellar Room
Your wine cellar needs to be well-insulated, at least R19 (more would be better) all the way around. Pay particular attention to the insulation on the top of the cellar. In warm climates most of your energy loss is through the ceiling/roof. And don’t forget the door — it needs to be insulated also.
Cellars need a vapor barrier all the way around to prevent condensate from forming in your walls. In many states, the building code requires that “green board” be used in the construction of wine cellars. These same states also require that outdoor paint be used inside the cellar, since it is formulated to prevent molds and mildews from developing. It is wise to paint the space in advance and allow it to air out before “sealing up” the wine cellar. Otherwise, it can take weeks/months for the cellar to stop smelling from the outdoor paint.
Home Wine Cellar Cooling Units
The chilling unit for your cellar is a very important consideration. Most of the cellar chilling units are made by Whisperkool or Breezeair — IWA has a large selection of home wine cellar cooling units. There are three basic designs: self-contained, split refrigeration, and split air handling.
The self-contained systems are the most basic, and they are designed to fit through a standard wall. The unit produces air that is 30 °F colder than the air in the room outside the cellar. This means these units have to vent indoors in warm/hot climates, because of the outside temperature. In a Texas summer, that would mean that one would struggle to keep a cellar below 70 °F. The exhaust for my unit goes into a heated and cooled store room. Keep in mind these systems can make quite a bit of noise.
Split refrigeration systems work the same way, except the condenser can be located separately in another part of the house. These units still have the same temperature restrictions as the self contained unit, so condenser placement is an important consideration.
Split air handling systems are similar to central air conditioning units. Both split systems require more calculations to determine what unit you need and they are more difficult to install compared to the self contained units. For many home owners, however, they represent the only option without major renovations.
Whisperkool has recently released their Extreme series. These self-contained units can be exhausted to the outdoors and still generate 55 °F air. The Extreme series costs about twice as much as Whisperkool’s other self-contained systems.
Wine Racks for Home Wine Cellars
Finally, wine cellars must have wine racks to hold the bottles. There are lots of manufacturers, but they all offer four basic options: two types of wine racks, standard and custom; and two materials of construction, wood and metal. Metal racks are typically restricted to 705 ml bottles and they cost more per bottle for storage.
Wooden racks are by far the most common. They are offered in a variety of standard configurations, such as individual bottle column racks, “cubes and bins”, corner racks, magnum racks, etc. You select the standard configuration based on the size and shape of your cellar and the type of wine you like to collect.
The bottle type (size and shape) of the wine you collect can make a big difference. For example, the individual bottle column racks will not accommodate all fat bottomed bottles, such as New World Pinot Noirs. Cube and bins are sized for a typical bottle, if yours are not the bottles may be unstable in the rack. Standard wine racks are available on the web.
Of course, there are also custom rack options. If you want to have someone build racks specifically for you, you will need to take measurements of your cellar after it is completed. Then the vendor will use these measurements to construct your racking system. Custom racks are at least twice as expensive as standard racks, but like all custom things, they can cost whatever you are willing to spend.
Of course there are services that would be more than happy to help you design and build your very own personal wine cellar. If you have the money, some of these services do amazing work.