When it comes to the display and storage of your beloved spirits, find out the design features that work best for your home When a homeowner requests a wine cellar, a wine room or a recommendation for a wine refrigerator, my first reaction is, “Ahhh, wine—my favourite subject.” Ideally, wine should be allowed to age and develop slowly in a cool, humid environment. Homeowners have many options when designing for their wine collection. From under-counter wine refrigerators to integrated wine cellars, the three most important things to consider are: temperature, humidity and light.
Sunlight or strong, direct incandescent light can negatively affect wine, which is why it is often packaged in dark glass bottles. Light-bodied wines are especially vulnerable to sunlight and should be kept in the dark at all times.
Humidity is important as corks can often dry out, even if bottles are stored on their sides. Please note, while new corking methods, such as the plastic cork, have become popular, wine experts still recommend storage on the side. If the cork dries out, wine is often exposed to oxygen, which can cause oxidation.
Many experts caution against storing wine in a refrigerator because of the dehumidification, unless it has a humidity control system. It is important to remember that champagnes and sparkling wines are best stored upright and not on their side, due to their internal pressure. Ideal humidity is around 75F (about 24C).
Wine is extremely susceptible to changes in temperature. If temperatures rise above 25C (77F), wine can develop an unusual ‘off’ flavour. Again, delicate wines, such as Rieslings and Chardonnays are more susceptible to this factor.
The ideal temperature for wine is 13C (55F), and the range is from 10C-15C (50-59F). Freezing should also be avoided as corks can pop and oxygen can enter the bottle.
Wines can be stored ‘actively’ with the use of cooling and humidity mechanisms or ‘passively’, which only uses natural methods. In Toronto, temperature swings in the basement can be somewhat mild; however, humidity ranges can vary widely depending upon the type of heating system in your home.
Before considering a passive wine cellar, it is best to monitor temperature and humidity over the seasons to see if your home meets the temperature and humidity ranges that are ideal for wine. In passive wine cellars, placing river rocks or gravel on the floor of the wine cellar and spritzing periodically with water can control humidity.
Passive wine cellars can be less expensive to build but may require more monitoring and time to ensure your wine investment is safe. As well, if you travel for long periods of time, this option may not be suitable.
When cooling units are required, the type and capacity are dependent upon the size and construction of the wine cellar. Before purchasing, it is best to seek a wine expert for advice. Online help is also available at Wine Enthusiast (wineenthusiast.com).
Wine racks are critical when designing a wine cellar. There are many low-cost solutions, such as simple wood and metal shelving, to more elaborate decorative shapes made from wrought iron to stainless steel. Choosing a wine rack can foster the sense of style that you wish to convey in your wine room.
There are hundreds of pre-fabricated options, from wall-mounted racks to smaller freestanding racks. A successful wine cellar typically has a variety of storage options to accommodate regular-sized bottles, oversized bottles, reds, whites and sparkling wines or champagnes.
The doors to a wine cellar can really set the tone for the wine experience. While glass is popular, options are endless and include decorative metal and hand-carved wood. Personally, I love repurposed antique doors that offer a sense of history.
For those of us who don’t have the space for a wine cellar, under-counter or freestanding wine refrigerators often have separate areas for reds and whites so that temperatures can be controlled via a dual-zone mechanism. Appliance Canada offers numerous selections from Avantgarde, Thermador, Sub-Zero, EuroCave, and many others.
For serious wine enthusiasts, the glassware is very important, as it affects the temperature and breathability of the wine. The categories include red, white, champagne, and dessert wines. Shapes are based upon the variety of the wine as well: Bordeaux vs. Cabernet or Riesling vs. Chardonnay.
Decanters can vary too. Enthusiasts often have decanter collections on display. If you combine this with barware, you have a significant need for glass storage. Some wine rooms offer a wine service area or bar in close proximity. These include storage for glassware, washing, drying, service and presentation.
Bar space or dedicated areas for wine tasting are a luxurious addition to a home and a treat for guests. Salute!