Constructing the Perfect Wine Cellar

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A proper wine cellar requires special flooring, wall and roof insulation, a cooling unit and a door that seals.
A proper wine cellar requires special flooring, wall and roof insulation, a cooling unit and a door that seals.

Wine collectors cannot improve how their wine was made, but they do control the environment in which their collection is stored, and so the onus is on them to ensure their bottles are well preserved in optimal conditions and in such a way as to increase the flavour and the value of their investment. Rosehill Wine Cellars construction experts detail the five properties of perfect wine storage.

The Art and Science of Wine Cellar Construction

Both art and science are needed to build a proper wine cellar that protects a wine collection. Keith Travers from Eastview Homes renovations got a first-hand look at what’s required while doing an upscale basement makeover in a Mississauga home. The home owner wanted a one hundred square foot wine cellar in the cold room (the area under the porch) area of the basement. But as Keith had never designed or installed anything like that before, he went looking for help, and he got an education. What Keith learned is listed below; he came to understand that a proper wine cellar needs special flooring, wall and roof insulation, wooden wine racks, a special built cooling unit, proper lighting, an exterior quality door that seals and a climate control system.

A proper wine cellar requires special flooring, wall and roof insulation, a cooling unit and a door that seals.
A proper wine cellar requires special flooring, wall and roof insulation, a cooling unit and a door that seals.

Smart Contractors Hire Wine Cellar Construction Experts

Eastview Homes accommodated the homeowner’s request by bringing in experts from Rosehill Wine Cellars to design, construct and install the wine cellar and modular redwood wine racking. Rosehill specializes in crafting quintessential quarters where quality wines can be collected and conserved in a gorgeous and ideal setting. The company plans and creates tailor-made storage that’s customized around the owner’s taste in design, architecture and the wine collection itself. And because each client has their own distinct storing specifications (the size and location of the allotted space, its cooling requirements) every wine cellar Rosehill builds ends up being beautiful, functional and totally unique.

Their process begins with consultation and design and ends with the cellar’s installation and final inspection. It’s tailored and tweaked as needed, with Rosehill providing ongoing maintenance of the ventilation and cooling equipment.

Wine cellars protect wine bottles by providing a dark, stable, horizontally resting spot in a cool climate.
Wine cellars protect wine bottles by providing a dark, stable, horizontally resting spot in a cool climate.

Wine Needs a Controlled Environment to Mature

The wine collector, who protects the flavour of their investment, can’t control Mother Nature, the climate or geography – neither the rain, the sun, the seasons, nor the altitude – but can control the environment of their wine cellar. A wine cellar’s construction and day-to-day operation ensures that the wine collection stays cool and dark through the seasons and away from sunlight throughout the years, safe and sound.

Wine cellars can be built anywhere, and wine cellar accessories miraculously transform any space into a winsome wine cellar. The science and art of a proper wine cellar, which safeguards and flawlessly ages bottles of fine wine, is complex. The technology and sophisticated design involved maintains and manages the cellar’s lighting, temperature, humidity, ventilation, vibrations and racking angles.

Wine cellars protect wine bottles by providing a dark, stable, horizontally resting spot in a consistently cool climate; this is a bottle of wine’s natural habitat.

Wines stored at higher temperatures will age faster.
Wines stored at higher temperatures will age faster.

Wines Thrive in Chilly Temperatures

Wine can be stored safely from 4° to 18°C (40° to 65°F). Higher temperature will age a wine faster, flattening out its flavours and aromas. Frequent or extreme temperature changes forces the wine inside the bottle to expand and contract and may push the cork out.

An individual bottle’s ideal storage temperature depends on the age of the wine and how long it will be stored. Cooler temperatures are preferred for wine being stored for the long term. White wines, consumed sooner than red wines, should be stored in cooler temperature, which preserves the esters, the wine’s fruity character.

A temperature of 15° to 18°C (60-65°F) can speed the development of bottle bouquet and increase the flavour for a bottle that will be opened within a year or two.

Storing wine at room temperature simply does not allow the wine to age properly. If stored in an attic, warm or hot temperatures will cook the wine, and leave it tasting like stewed fruit once opened. If stored in a basic cellar the cold temperature will not allow the aging process to develop the nuances of the wine. The wine will remain unripe and not mature.

Moderate Humidity Keeps Wine Cellars Moist

The ideal humidity level for wines is between 50 per cent and 70 per cent. Keeping the cellar at this level of humidity wards off naturally growing mold and protects bottle corks from drying out and shrinking. High humidity allows mold and mildew to form, and high humidity ruins wine labels. Wine absorbs the aromas in its environment and the presence of mold affects its flavor through the cork which is not necessarily a bad thing. There are winemakers and collectors who prefer moldy cellars as they believe the natural, earthy environment positively affects the wine by adding ‘cellar notes’, and they believe wines stored in cellars without mold lack complexity. The only problem with that is mold in cellars ruins houses and restaurants.

On the other end of the spectrum, wine cellars that are too dry can also be detrimental to collections. Low humidity causes corks to shrink, and that allows air to seep into the bottle, causing wine to oxidize. Any excess oxygen in the bottle will cause wine to acidify and taste like vinegar. Storing bottles on their sides allows the wine to keep the cork wet.

Humidity is affected by temperature, which is affected by four things: geography, climate, season and the construction and whatever insulation is in the wine cellar. Proper ventilation and good air flow eliminate odor build-up and mold. Wine cellar cooling units provide ideal filtration and ventilation for cellars, especially if the cellar is located beside a water tank, furnace or windows.

Bright Light Is an Enemy Inside a Decent Wine Cellar

Bright light, and especially the UV rays from the sun and fluorescent or tungsten filament incandescent lighting, react with the compounds in wine causing imbalances. Sunlight breaks down the wine’s antioxidants and tannins. This damages the wine, causing an unpleasant aroma, premature aging and spoilage. Hence wine is bottled in tinted or coloured glass to preserve the liquid’s integrity. Tinted glass blocks out light to preserve antioxidants. This protects the wine from oxidation as it ages.

Our Mississauga home’s cellar has used LED pot lights with good insulated pots. LED lights are available in various shapes and configurations and look great when lit.

Wine Racks

The importance of storing wine on its side can’t be underestimated: keeping the cork nice and moist prevents air from getting into the bottle. On its side, the wine maintains constant contact with the cork, keeping it wet and expanded, which maintains the bottle’s seal and protects the wine. Storing a bottle of wine upright allows the seal to loosen, the cork to dry out and shrink and lets oxygen seep in and spoil the wine.

Wine racks store wine bottles horizontally and are designed to use the existing space efficiently.

Wood is also a good choice for wine cellars built in Ontario. The best are maple, mahogany, redwood and beech, which react well to the moist and cool environment of Ontario. And they don’t give off any unfavourable odors that wine bottles could absorb.

Vibration

Over time, frequent large and small vibrations can ruin a good wine. Rosehill recommends using wall-anchored wooden racks as storage because wood absorbs small vibrations and wall anchoring helps eliminate sway. Constant vibrations affect the balance of a wine. Vibration, or any constant shaking or rattling, agitates a wine in two ways. First, it keeps the wine’s sediment from sinking to the bottom and mixing in with the rest of the wine. Second, it creates kinetic energy inside the bottle which affects the process of the wine’s aging. Both change the chemical reactions inside the bottle, affecting the flavour, aroma and acidity of the wine. And vibrations come from just about anything, anywhere – foot traffic or a dump truck driving overhead, subway or freight train tracks near by or even a common household appliance, such as a washing machine or refrigerator, plugged into a shared wall. It all factors into the wine’s aging process.

Wine is a fine thing and a wine cellar even finer. Mindful planning and meticulous craftsmanship encourage the wine’s natural aging process and keeps the entire collection safe and pristine. The best way to enjoy the best wine is to consciously care about the quality and nuance every step of the way.

Since wine is a natural drink, produced from fermented grapes, it’s perishable. It spoils easily when exposed to light, heat, fluctuations in temperature and humidity and it’s affected by vibrations. Only properly stored wines maintain quality and aroma, and flavour. Their complexity is only enhanced as they mature with time.

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