WINE CELLAR DESIGN GUIDE
Are you dreaming of your own wine cellar, wine room or wine rack system, but aren’t sure where to start?
Vigilant is here to help you build your dream wine storage in any size space, on any budget. Our Wine Cellar Guide outlines top considerations, key construction tips, and best wine storage practices. Whether you are just beginning the process of planning or you are ready to build, our sales and design experts are ready to answer any questions and help you achieve the wine storage solution of your dreams!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHOOSING YOUR WINE CELLAR LOCATION
One of the most important considerations when building a wine cellar is the location.
The location chosen determines many other factors affecting the cost of building and maintaining the cellar. The ideal temperature and humidity for a wine cellar is in the 55°F and 60% relative humidity range. If you select a cooler, more humid location, the cooling system will not need to work as hard so a smaller cooling system may be adequate. This may translate to lower energy costs. Conversely, a warmer location means the cooling system will run more frequently and a larger system may be required. Construction cost may also increase as additional insulation may be required.
THE IDEAL STORAGE ENVIRONMENT
Once you’ve decided to build a wine cellar, do you know what you need to do to properly store wine so it ages to perfection? Here’s some key information on how to store your precious wine collection.
Ultraviolet (UV) light can wreak havoc on a bottle of wine, especially when exposure extends for long periods of time. UV rays destroy the tannins in wine. Tannins play an important role in preventing oxidation which can prematurely age wine.
Heat can ruin the flavor of a bottle of wine if it is exposed to it for long periods of time. Early French winemakers discovered that wine stored cool damp cellars actually improved with age. The cool temperatures slow the aging process and allow the wine to acquire beneficial characteristics over time. Evidence suggests that the wine aging process may stop altogether when temperatures fall below 45° F.
The production of solids and sediment is a natural part of the wine aging process. Vibration of the wine may upset the liquid-to-solid balance and artificially accelerate the production of solids. Take care to make sure your wine is not subjected to vibrations from household mechanical systems such as cooling units, laundry equipment or the like.
Strong, sustained odors can negatively alter the flavor of wine. This is particularly true for corked wine, which remains the most popular capping method. Wine in bottles with a mechanical screw top are essentially immune to outside odors. The most common harmful odors come from the presence of such things as aromatic woods like Western Red Cedar, household chemicals, strong spices or even garlic. Every effort should be made to keep any odor-producing compounds isolated from your wine.
Wine should not be subjected to very cold temperatures. White wine serving temperatures in the low 40° F range should be the absolute lowest temperature for long term wine storage for reds or white wines. Freezing temperatures will ruin all wines.
Humidity and temperature are equally important in maintaining the best wine storage environment. Corked wine is particularly vulnerable to dry conditions while wine stored in bottles with mechanical screw caps is more protected. Ideal humidity should fall in the 60-65% range at 55° F. Humidity levels above 65% at 55° F can be equally dangerous for wine and wine labels.
DETERMINE THE SIZE OF YOUR CELLAR
Knowing the answer to these questions will help you determine the wine cellar size that will meet your needs.
WILL YOUR WINE CELLAR BE FOR FUNCTIONAL LONG TERM STORAGE? OR AS A SHOWCASE FOR YOUR WINE?
WHAT TYPES OF WINE WILL YOU BE STORING?
HOW MANY BOTTLES CAN I FIT INTO MY SPACE?
CHOOSING A WINE CELLAR COOLING SYSTEM
What are the benefits of an actively conditioned wine cellar? The enemies of wine are lurking everywhere. In most cases it will be necessary to build either a room or cabinet equipped with a mechanical cooling unit to achieve the ideal wine storage environment.
Wine cellars installed above ground will require active conditioning to achieve the ideal environment. Should you choose to actively cool your wine cellar using a wine cooling system, you need to follow the proper construction guidelines for building a wine cellar or wine room. Failure to properly follow these guidelines may result in cooling system failure and moisture damage to areas surrounding the wine storage space.
Your wine storage space should be placed in the coolest, most humid area in your home. The closer the wine room is to an ideal wine cellar temperature of 55° F and 60-65% Relative Humidity, the more efficient the cooling system will be. Any warmer and your wine will age faster; any cooler and your wine will age slower.
The location and size of the wine cellar will determine what cooling system is going to work best for the space. Some wine cellar cooling systems have strict requirements for installation. For example, a through the wall cooling system cannot vent directly into living space. So if your wine cellar is in the center of your living space, this system would not be a fit for you. A ducted or ductless system would be a better choice. The selection of and planning for a wine cellar cooling system should done prior to the wine cellar framing stage.
If you invest in fine wine, you know the importance of storing it in optimal conditions. Our comprehensive line of wine cooling systems fit every application. There are many variables involved in choosing the correct system so start the process early on in your project. Our experts can help you select a wine cooling system that fits your needs and budget, and allows your fine wine to age gracefully.
Today’s systems are designed to be quieter and more efficient. So if you have an older cooling system, consider scheduling a free consult to see if an upgrade can improve your cellar’s ambience and lower your energy bill!
Protect your passion and investment by installing a climate-control system in your wine cellar.
Cooling systems are a key component in ensuring your wine is stored in the perfect environment at a consistent, year-round temperature of 55°F with a relative humidity level of 60-65%.
Our complete line of cooling systems use the latest technology and are suitable for every application including ducted, through-wall, and ducted and ductless split systems. With years of experience, we’re happy to recommend the best system for your space.
CHOOSING A VAPOR BARRIER
The application of a vapor barrier is critical to maintaining the correct environment and preventing moisture from forming inside your wine cellar walls. The method used will depend on what insulation material is being used.
If traditional batting or rigid foam is to be installed, then you must wrap the walls and ceiling with a 6mm poly vapor barrier so the room is completely sealed.
If the cellar is not in a basement, you will need to install the vapor barrier and insulate the floor as well. Be sure to tape all of the joints of poly with moisture resistant tape and be sure to seal all outlets and lighting fixtures that penetrate the barrier.
Insulation isolates your wine cellar from exterior elements and helps to maintain a cool, moist environment for your wine. It will keep your passive cellar from becoming too warm and will help to conserve energy for a wine room that is actively cooled by a system.
Non-cement floors with living or crawl spaces below must be insulated with rigid foam, spray-in insulation-preferably closed cell, or traditional fiberglass batting. A vapor barrier must also be applied on these surfaces (excluding a closed cell) as well.
Walls must be insulated with a minimum value of R-19 and ceilings must be insulated with a value of R-30. R-value indicates the ability of the insulation to restrict heat flow — a higher R-value indicates better insulation.
When applying traditional fiberglass batting, make sure to orient the paper or foil barrier toward the warm side of the wine cellar wall. Seal all joints with a foil-backed tape.
THICKNESSES AND R-VALUES
We recommend a minimum R-value of R-19 in the wine cellar walls and R-30 in the ceilings.
WINE CELLAR CONSTRUCTION CONSIDERATIONS
Frame all cellar walls (even concrete walls) using standard 2×4 or 2×6 studs. Keep in mind the thicker the wall depth, the more insulation and higher R value can be achieved.
Ceilings must be insulated and you may have to insulate the floor, depending on your substrate materials. Once the framing is complete, you will want to run the electrical and plumbing for lighting and your cooling system prior to insulating.
If you are using spray in closed cell foam insulation, this acts as a vapor barrier as well as an insulator so the 6mm poly step in the vapor barrier process is not necessary.
Upon completion of the wall framing, run all electrical wiring for lighting, outlets and your wine room cooling system. Cooling systems normally require a dedicated circuit, so check the manufacturer’s instructions and voltage requirements.
Light switches with dimmers should be placed near the wine cellar door and should control all the lighting in the wine cellar.
Switches with timers or motion detectors are a nice feature that can turn the lights off for you when your hands are full.
This is the time to start thinking about what kind of lighting fixtures you would like and to have the wires run for them. Consider sconces, chandeliers, recessed lighting, can lighting and track lighting.
CHOOSING YOUR MATERIALS
After the cellar is framed, sealed, and insulated and all electrical and plumbing has been roughed in, you will choose your wall, ceiling, and flooring materials.
Your flooring choices should be based on the look you are trying to achieve in your wine room.
TILE & STONEWORK
Most wine cellars use either ceramic tile or stonework on the floor. Earth tones are always a great choice, as they allow the eyes to travel away from the floor and up to your amazing wine collection.
Wood floors are a great design element in a wine cellar. They look natural and warm but will hold up well. Be sure to use rot-resistant hardwood like mahogany, and it’s critical that you leave a gap between the floor and the wall to allow for expansion of the floor material. The gap can be easily concealed with baseboard molding after your wine racking is installed.
Vaulted ceilings and wood ceilings are other optional design elements that can add a unique look to your finished wine cellar. Both tongue & groove and bead board are great options for wood ceilings and can be finished to match your wine racking and wine cellar elements.
A moisture-resistant drywall/plywood material is fine for walls and ceilings. We recommend 1/2″ moisture-resistant gypsum wallboard or green board as the most common and cost-effective wall material. This wall board must be painted with moisture-resistant paint.
CHOOSING YOUR WINE CELLAR DOOR
Your wine cellar entry door is the first chance to make a first impression. It should be both functional and beautiful. Because the wine cellar is a conditioned space, you want to ensure that the entry door is an exterior grade with weather stripping for a tight seal. In the case of glass doors, make sure the wine cellar door includes high R-Value glass panels. Our Classic and Value Classic doors are the perfect solution.
FULL GLASS DOORS
TUSCAN GLASS DOORS
RUSTIC WOOD DOORS
PROVINCIAL GLASS DOORS
Before ordering your door you must determine its swing; in or out, and left or right. It is preferable to have your door swing into the wine cellar, making sure that its swing path does not interfere with your wine racks.
The positive pressure in a conditioned wine room will push the in-swinging door against the jam and weather stripping, creating a superior seal. When choosing a door with a glass panel, make sure that the panel is dual-paned, insulated glass. The higher the R-value, the better.
CHOOSING YOUR RACKING
Traditional wooden wine racks, stunning metal wine racks and innovative cellar systems can bring endless design possibilities to your new space.
Our Standard wine racking kits are offered in two wood species and two heights, providing the largest kit selection in the industry. These beautiful, durable half-height and full-height racks can accommodate thousands of bottles to just a few.
Our Custom line allows you to use more traditional storage components like ladder racking while tailoring your wine cellar to your specific needs like wood species and custom heights and depths.
Want premium elements such as casework, solid panels, and more decorative-end design elements? Vigilant will work with you to bring you the high-quality, bespoke wine storage solution of your dreams!
WHAT IS A MODULAR WINE SYSTEM?
A modular wine storage system, like kitchen cabinets, is made up of individual units that are grouped together to form a storage system when paired with our standard racks. Because no two spaces are identical, modular kits are designed to fit together in a way that allows you to optimize your space without the added expense and lead times associated with a custom cellar.
STAINS & FINISHES
Two major factors to consider when you are deciding on the appearance of your racking are the wood stain and the wood species.
On their own, wooden wine racks are already beautiful. Unfinished mahogany, for example, will reveal its unique quality as it ages over time. But its beauty can be further enhanced when a stain is applied. Generally, wine rack stains come in a wide array of options.
We offer Harvest, Chestnut, Espresso, or Ebony stains. Our lacquer top coat is a satin finish that increases durability and adds a gentle shine. This can be added to any stain option. As a general rule, we do not recommend unstained products with lacquer only. Our experience shows that lacquer accentuates a wood grain’s inherent tone variations too strongly for most people’s tastes.
Don’t see the exact finish you’d like? We specialize in a wide variety of custom wood species and finishes. Contact us to discuss how we can accommodate your unique specifications.
CHOOSING YOUR LIGHTING
Lighting is one of the most important aspects in wine cellar construction. The right lighting system will dramatically highlight your collection and determine your cellar’s mood and tone. Choosing the wrong type of lighting may also put your wine collection at risk.
The lighting in your wine cellar should be both functional and decorative and should provide ample light for reading wine labels without exposing your wine to excessive heat and ultraviolet light. Putting all of your lighting on wall switches with dimmers will give you the flexibility to raise and lower light levels for the appropriate task. Switch timers or motion detectors are a great feature and will prevent the lights from being left on inadvertently.
Display lighting can highlight an arch, a display row, cabinetry, and other decorative or functional items anywhere within your wine cellar or wine room.
Recessed ceiling lights are the best solution for wine cellar lighting. They are unobtrusive, and their specialized fixtures allow you to aim the light to areas where it is most needed.
Track lighting can be used as an alternative or in addition to recessed cans. Track lights are flexible and provide good light.