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Don't Make These Mistakes When Building a Wine Cellar in Your Home

Common Mistakes When Building a Wine Cellar You Should Avoid

Building a wine cellar is one of the best things you can do this year. Not only will it increase the value of your home and give you a place for your wine collection, but it will also expand your skill set and boost your confidence. There is no downside to building an in-home wine cellar.

But there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it.

In this post, we’ll share with you some helpful dos and don’ts homeowners should follow when constructing wine cellars. If you know what to look for (and avoid), you can create a beautiful wine cellar to meet your needs.

Let’s get started.

Don’t Choose the Wrong Location for Your Wine Cellar

Do Consider Your Location Options

The best location for your wine cellar is below ground, in a basement. But what if your home doesn’t have a basement? That’s not a problem. Even without a basement, there are many other places around your home where you can build a wine cellar.

However, it’s always best to build your wine cellar in an interior space (with no exterior walls) so that you can better control the temperature.

If you have fluctuating temperatures, such as four seasons with extreme winters or summers, you don’t want to put your wine cellar next to an exterior wall. It’s too difficult to create a consistent temperature in that type of environment.

Don’t Expose Your Wine Bottles to Excess Sunlight

Do Store Your Wine in Complete Darkness for Best Results

Another major mistake to avoid when building a wine cellar is light exposure. Wine cellars and vampires have one thing in common: They both need to avoid direct sunlight. This is particularly important if you plan to store red wine. The UV rays in sunlight can negatively affect the tannins in wine (red wine has a higher concentration of tannins). Sunlight will ruin the taste of the wine. And it doesn’t take that long, either. In as little as one hour, you can ruin an entire bottle of wine. This is why red wine is stored in darker bottles.

So, to protect your wine, say “no” to windows in your cellar, especially windows facing the outdoors. Interior windows have become fashionable recently. And while interior windows looking into your wine cellar can be visually stunning, be careful.

Wine fridges and coolers in a wine bar

Cellars should be dark to protect the wine, so it’s best to keep your cellar window-free. This also extends to the cellar door. It’s best to avoid adding inset windows on your cellar door for the same reason. Also note that an overabundance of light can increase the temperature in the cellar, which is not a good idea (we’ll discuss this in greater detail below).

That’s not to say that you need to navigate through your cellar with a flashlight. You can install lights in your cellar (just remember to turn them off before you leave or add them to automatic timers). An LED is the best option for cellars because they don’t introduce heat or produce damaging UV radiation. For ceiling lighting, you can do airlock LED can lights. Choosing the airlock variety is important because your cellar should be airtight.

Don’t Let Your Wine Cellar Get Too Hot

Do Keep Your Cellar Comfortably Cool

Your cellar isn’t just a glorified storage room. It may look romantic and old-world, but the cellar’s main function is to protect your wine as it ages. Without the proper conditions, the wine inside your cellar will rapidly age and the flavors will be destroyed.

The proper temperature for your cellar is somewhere between 50°F to 60°F. White wines should be stored closer to 50°F, and reds should be stored closer to 60°F, but if you have a mix of both, it’s fine to be somewhere in the middle.

The best way top do this is with a proper cellar cooling unit. We compared the best wine cellar cooling units here.

Don’t Allow Your Cellar to Get Too Cold

Do Mimic the Environmental Conditions of a Traditional, Below-Ground Cellar

It’s also important that you don’t over-chill your wine. Frozen wine expands in the bottle. If it doesn’t break the bottle outright, it can force the bottle's cork to pop, which will introduce air into the bottle.

Traditionally, wine cellars were buried underground. The temperature of the earth below is between 50°F to 60°F, so you don’t want to go under that.

Don’t Let Your Wine Cellar Dry Out

Do Maintain the Proper Humidity Level in Your Cellar

To properly support your wine collection, your cellar needs to maintain the right amount of humidity. If it’s too dry, the corks will likewise dry out and expose the wine to air. If the cellar is too humid, mold can grow and the wine labels may start to peel off.

This is why we recommend keeping your humidity between 50% to 70%. You can purchase a cooling unit with the humidifier already built-in, such as the CellarPro Air Handler 8500 Horizontal #7108.

Don’t Let the Humidity Destroy Your Cellar Walls

Do Protect Your Walls From Excess Humidity

When introducing that much humidity into your cellar, you need to take the steps to protect your walls. It’s crucial to use a vapor barrier in your cellar. A vapor barrier will prevent the humidity from leaving your cellar and seeping into other areas of your home. It will also stop mold from growing on the surrounding walls of your cellar. The best vapor barrier to use is high-density closed-cell foam.

Don’t Allow Vibrations to Destroy Your Wine Collection

Do Eliminate Every Source of Vibration Around Your Cellar

This isn’t a Beach Boys song – there are no good vibrations when it comes to a wine cellar. Even a small amount of vibration disturbs the sediment in the wine and creates a chemical reaction that dulls the flavors in your wines and speeds up aging.

Vibration can come from all sorts of appliances, including washing machines and dryers, HVACs, stereo equipment, vacuum cleaners, et al. Even walking in a space above the cellar can cause vibration.

Be sure to locate your cellar in a space that’s far away from daily disturbances and high traffic areas.

Don’t Store Your Bottles Upright

Do Store Your Bottles Sideways to Prevent Accidental Spoilage

Lined up wine bottles sealed with corks

While storing your bottles upright may look great, it’s not ideal for long-term storage of your wine bottles. Bottles with corks should be stored on their sides. This ensures that the wine stays in contact with the cork. Remember, a dry cork will introduce air into the bottle, thereby spoiling it.

Choose from our range of wine racks to ensure your wine looks stylish and ages properly.

If your wine uses screwtops, then you can disregard this tip.

Don’t Store the Wrong Type of Wine in Your Cellar

Do Discover Which Wine to Store and Which to Enjoy Immediately

Ever heard the phrase, “Wine gets better with time?” That’s true, but not universally. Some wine has a fast-approaching expiration date. The majority of wines are best consumed within two to three years, which means they won’t benefit from long-term aging.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can’t store your wine. You should, but keep an eye on the expiration date and be sure to consume within that time frame.

Don’t Add New Wine to Your Collection Yet

Do Wait Until After Building Your Cellar to Begin Building Your Wine Collection

You’re anxious to build your cellar, and in the meantime, you start ordering wine bottles to fill up your storage. Don’t be so quick. Otherwise, you’ll have to think of a temporary place to store your wine while building. And you could unintentionally ruin the wine in the process.

It’s best to build your cellar first and then start populating it with wine bottles.

Don’t Store Your Wines Haphazardly in Your Cellar

Do Organize Your Wine Collection

Your wine cellar will probably hold a mixed collection, from the everyday type of wine to the once-in-a-lifetime. To make your wine cellar as functional as possible, organize it so that your everyday wines are more accessible to you. This way, you won’t need to unnecessarily move the other bottles in your cellar. This vibration can damage the wine.

Another thing to consider is adding an inventory system to your cellar. This will help you stay on top of which wine to drink first.

Final Thoughts

Building your wine cellar will not only beautify your home, but the process will also build your confidence. Be sure to follow the above tips so that you can create a cellar that you’ll enjoy for years to come.

If you don't want a wine cellar, then a wine fridge could be a cheaper alternative.

Before you go, check out these related resources:

Randy Green

Randy is a true wine storage aficionado and expert in wine cellar design. He gained construction experience as a partner in a general contracting business before niching into and passionately focusing on creating wine storage solutions for clients in 2016. He takes great pride in bringing these designs to life, and is dedicated to ensuring that every wine cellar he creates is not only functional but also a beautiful addition to any home or business. The Wine Cellar HQ team also includes refrigeration sizing experts and licensed HVAC technicians to ensure optimal climate control for your wine cellar, so that your wines can age to perfection.
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