Homes are increasingly being designed with wine cellars as more and more people are taking to collecting their favourite wines.

Tania MacPhee of EuroCave Australia  and MacPhee’s Wine Storage Specialists was recently interviewed by about the "4 things to consider before adding a wine cellar. She specifies five criteria for cellaring wine correctly: Consistent 14°C temperature; 65-75% humidity; fresh air flow; minimal vibration; and UV-free lighting.

Given that all these conditions aren’t usually present in the average home, MacPhee lists out four things to remember when adding a wine cellar.

1. Get a wine cellar conditioner

Instead of a standard air-conditioner, MacPhee recommends a wine cellar conditioner that can turn almost any space into a custom cellar by recreating the essential conditions required to mature the wine perfectly.

According to MacPhee, many Australians overlook the need for a custom wine cellar conditioner, wrongly believing that basement temperatures generally remain cool and stable throughout the year. But Australian summers can turn basements into hot spaces that effectively ‘cook’ the wine in the absence of a temperature controller. Conversely, basements are much cooler during the winter months, with the vast change in temperature also adversely impacting the maturing of the stored wine.

A standard air-conditioner is not designed to handle the consistently low temperatures that wine needs to cellar correctly, nor can it manage humidity.

2. Cellars don’t have to be underground

It’s a common misconception that cellars need to be underground. MacPhee says a wine cellar can be placed anywhere inside the home as long as it is properly insulated. Many homeowners prefer to place the cellar in the middle of the home as this would seem to be the ‘coolest’ place, but cellars should ideally be designed closer to an external wall.

Wine collectors also choose to position the cellar closer to the dining or kitchen space for better usability, or even at or near the entrance of the home to impress guests.

3. Wine cellars need thermal protection

In addition to installing a wine cellar conditioner, one will need to ensure proper thermal protection in the wine storage area. The load of the wine cellar conditioner can increase dramatically in the absence of effective insulation. MacPhee recommends insulation with an R-value of 2.86 to ensure the cellar conditioner works efficiently and effectively.

Some homeowners use glazing in their wine cellars to show off their collection. In such instances, argon filled double glazing should be used, preferably with an energy coating.

4. Determine your space requirement for a cellar

Work out the space that’ll be needed to store the wine collection – a good guide is 100 bottles per square metre. Wine collecting is an expensive hobby; for instance, a 1000-bottle wine cellar will cost at least $40,000 to fill at $40 per bottle. MacPhee adds that building a big wine cellar with the right wines will also take a long time.

Common mistakes in wine cellar design include assuming the basement or cool cupboard is cool enough, and that a double-brick construction is sufficient for insulation. MacPhee says temperature control should be the focus when designing a wine cellar instead of fancy and expensive wine racks. Most importantly, wine cellars should not be sealed – a gap under the door and an additional vent for air flow are advised.

Image: As long as a cellar is properly insulated, it can be placed almost anywhere inside the home.

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