Find a few special cases of wine – produced in a good year with limited availability – and suddenly you’re dreaming about a wine cellar. The last thing you’d want is to have those bottles turn to vinegar because they were stored improperly.
These days a home’s spirits storage can be rich with personality and constructed to reflect a homeowner’s design aesthetic, be it modern or rustic.
“Interest in wine and entertaining with it at home is very popular, so the concept of a wine cellar continues to grow,” says Robert Bass, co-owner of Kessick Wine Cellars in Greenville, S.C., a wholesale designer and manufacturer of wine rack systems for nearly 10 years.
A space dedicated to wine storage in the home used to be considered a status symbol for the few. But today, it can be simple or grand.
With better climate-control technology today, Bass discards old notions of an underground rock cave for wine storage. In fact, wine doesn’t even have to be housed in a basement to be stored properly. Even though many of the newer designs are not subterranean, they are still referred to as wine cellars.
“You need a room that is cool, dark and relatively humid to effectively store your wine,” he says. “Wine storage can range from a temperature-controlled closet fitted with a 50-bottle rack, located off the kitchen pantry, to a special glassed-in room that holds hundreds of bottles of wine, adjacent to a tasting room for parties.”
Ensuring a steady temperature is among the most important factors when storing wine.
“Fifty-five degrees is the magic number for optimal wine storage,” Bass says. “This is the temperature of a natural cave.”
Any colder – like in a refrigerator – can cause a wine to go into a state of dormancy. A temperature above 75 degrees accelerates the wine’s aging process.
Fluctuations between warm and cold can cause wine to expand and contract, which then draws in air through the cork. This process, over time, causes the wine to oxidize and become undrinkable.
For optimal wine storage, an insulated room (or closet) should be constructed with a built-in air conditioner that will keep the temperature at 55 degrees. Prices for self-standing, temperature-controlled cabinets or credenzas made especially to store wine can start around $1,000, based on the design and the number of bottles it will hold.
Keeping the humidity level between 60 and 70 percent in your wine storage room or unit is also important, says Bass. Damp air keeps wine corks from drying out, which ensures a tight seal in the bottle. Storing a wine bottle on its side will also keep the cork moist inside the bottle.
A hygrometer is an instrument that measures a wine storage room’s humidity level. A humidifier can add moisture into the room, but Bass says to avoid an environment with 90 percent humidity, as this will cause mold to grown on the corks.
Wine is also light sensitive, so hot, glaring lights focusing on bottles in storage will actually age it faster. Instead, Bass has devised a wine storage system that most often uses Sapele mahogany wood racks – because of the wood’s durability and tendency to not mold in the humid conditions – outfitted with low-heat LEDs (light-emitting diodes).
“I have also designed a strong, angular stainless steel rod wine rack system – which has a more modern aesthetic – because fewer people want the old-world radius arches in their wine cellars,” he says.
Just as important as the wine is the chance to enjoy a favorite bottle in the comfort of your home, Bass said.
“A wine refrigerator is just an appliance, but selecting bottles from a wine cellar is meant to be an experience,” he says. “It’s very social to open up a bottle of wine and enjoy it with friends and family.
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