If you are seriously thinking about building a climate controlled area to store your wine collection, be sure to consider these ten essential features:
- Very good refrigeration equipment. There are many attributes to the refrigeration equipment that you need to thing about but the real important one is service. Be sure to get equipment that can be repaired locally – some well-known equipment has to be returned to the manufacturer for service.
- Properly applied air & vapor barriers. If the air & vapor barriers are not applied correctly, condensation will occur, probably behind the walls. The result is mold which is not trivial to remedy.
- Quality Lighting. I have seen many wine cellars in which the lighting was an after-thought. Plan your lighting while planning the racks – low voltage within the racks, track or recessed lighting in the ceiling, or whatever your pleasure.
- Racks that maximize the space. Certain types of bins store more effectively than others. See #10. The goal is to have a racking design that maximizes the available space and does not waste space with racks that are not effective.
- A shelf or counter for staging and serving. Try to find an area within the racks where there can be a small counter or tabletop. This comes in handy when you are unloading cases or grabbing some bottles for dinner.
- Some sort of numbering or labeling system for the racks. It can be a real challenge to keep track of a collection once it is racked so plan the inventory system before you place the bottles in the racks. Create a labeling system and assign a label to each storage area. For example, a section of individuals that is 20 columns wide and 20 rows tall might have this system: C1R4, C4R5.
- A visual focal point, like art or a niche in the racking. If possible and there is space, work a visual focal point into the racks. This could be an arch, an open niche for a piece of art or something similar. The idea is to make the room into something more than a room full of racks.
- Storage specific to bottle types or sizes. This is becoming more important as more and more vineyards are making odd shaped bottles. Many of these odd shaped bottles along with most burgundy size bottles will not fit into a bin designed for 750’s so be aware.
- Wood types for racks. There are many woods that are wine storage friendly but stay away from cedar as it can emit an unfavorable odor. There are many types of cedar and some racking manufacturers state that their cedar does not have an odor. At the end of the day, avoid cedar and don’t worry about it.
- Racking elements based on your collecting habits. There are a variety of racking elements that can be used: individuals, diamonds, rectangular bins and more. Think about how you collect while designing the racks. If you do not buy cases and just get a few bottles of a particular wine, don’t go heavy on diamonds or rectangular bins. If you like to leave your wines in the wood cases, be sure to get a lot of racks for wood case bins.
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Your custom wine room will be more than just a room with racks if you keep these ten essential features in mind while designing it.
Jost Lunstroth is VP of Vineyard Wine Cellars, a Texas company that designs and builds climate controlled wine storage systems.