How to Build a Wine Cellar – Construction Tips & Considerations

You’ve put together a great little wine library and it’s time to think about proper wine storage solutions. How can you best protect your wine collection?

Start by understanding ideal long-term wine storage for red wine, white wine and sparkling varieties:

  1. Varietal or type of wine doesn’t matter. Wine storage temperature and conditions for long-term aging is the same, regardless of what type of wines you collect. All wines thrive and mature appropriately between 55 – 60°F (13 – 14°C). Storing on the cooler end of the scale will result in slightly slower maturation of wine as opposed to storing on the higher end of the temperature scale which slightly accelerates the maturation process. The key is consistency in wine storage temperature. Fluctuations in temperature will negatively impact your wine, causing corks to expand and contract and contribute to oxidization.
  2. Low or no light is best. Serious collectors with custom wine cellars will usually avoid or limit windows and glass to keep light from flooding in. Of course, they have lights in their wine cellar but these will be LED (so as not to emit heat) and only be used when accessing the cellar. Too much light when storing wine can cause chemical compounds to change and contribute to faults over time.
  3. A relative humidity of 50 – 75% is ideal for wine storage - any dryer and corks may become brittle, any wetter and you could start developing mold.
  4. Eliminate any vibrations. Vibration of wine bottles stirs up sediment and can cause complex chemical reactions that alter the flavour of your wine.
  5. Lay bottles down. Wine storage racks that allow you to store bottles in a horizontal position should be used. This puts wine in contact with the cork to keep it moist. Beware custom wine racks with special display features that elevate the neck of the wine bottle too much. Dry corks become brittle and contribute to oxidization.
How to Build a Wine Cellar

How to build your wine cellar to accommodate the above conditions:

  1. Choose a low-light, preferably sub-terranean area of your home. North-east facing spaces are best. Think hard about installing any glass walls or windows. Glass may look beautiful but if you are planning to store high-end wines for many years, you should consider the impact of the light that will penetrate these surfaces.
  2. Install an appropriate vapour barrier. Vapour barrier should be installed on the warm side (non-cellar side) of insulation in all walls and the ceiling. If using closed-cell spray foam insulation this provides an automatic vapour barrier so you don’t need a separate poly sheet.
  3. Add insulation to all walls and the ceiling. Strive for R20 in the walls and R30 in the ceiling. Depending on your wall construction and cavity space, you may or may not achieve R20 but get as close as you can. Note that any time you are achieving less than R20, it is best to get a thermal load calculation to determine the best wine cellar cooling units for your space – you cannot choose a unit based on the manufacturer’s suggested room size, they assume you have R20!
  4. Install an exterior grade door. The door should have weatherstripping all around and either a dropdown seal or threshold to seal when closed. If your door has glass, go for a dual pane, sealed unit for maximum insulative value.
  5. Install an appropriate wine cellar cooling unit. Even wine cellars built in basements benefit from having a cooling unit installed to ensure a steady wine storage temperature. Plan for your wine cellar, factoring in a cooling unit before you start building a new room or renovating an existing one. All self-contained cooling units require appropriate ventilation and split systems often need to have refrigerant piping run to outdoors. These aren’t details you’ll want to be sorting out after you’ve built your room! Feel free to contact us to discuss your build plans and source the best wine cellar cooling unit for your space.
  6. Choose appropriate flooring and wall coverings. There really aren’t many requirements or warnings when it comes to these finishing materials. Just keep in mind that engineered hardwood is more dimensionally stable in more humid environments and you’ll want to stay away from carpet.
  7. Install LED lighting. LED is recommended to minimize any heat contributed to your wine cellar.
  8. Choose and install wine racks that allow bottles to lay down, keeping your corks wet. A huge variety of systems are available, ranging from metal wall mounted wine racks, to wooden wine racks more suitable for vintage wine cellars.

The Wine Cellar Alternative: Wine Fridges

Perhaps you’re short on space, or don’t have the budget or motivation to carry out a custom wine cellar construction project. Consider a climate-controlled wine cabinet or wine fridge to store your collection. These plug-and-play appliances provide similar wine storage conditions for smaller collections. The value-priced Vinopro designer series wine fridge is our top seller.