A good cellar depends on several factors, as you can check it out here. Excellent balance between constant, low temperatures, low light, and above-average humidity is the definition of what makes a wine cellar that can keep your beverages in top-notch condition. Here are all these factors explained.
The importance of ventilation
Even a cellar is, basically, a room without windows, that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t have proper ventilation. This factor is quite difficult to attain, as too much airflow can cause your wine to lose its properties as the corks get dry due to the drop in humidity. The idea is that you need some ventilation, but not too much; its primary role is to prevent the growth of mold and too much moisture.
The science behind the perfect temperature
Another thing that you should be aware of is that wine needs to stay at a temperature no lower than 51°F and no higher than 59°F. If that sounds like a small range to achieve, you are right. That is why you can’t store your wine anywhere. The whole point of storing wine is to help it age well, and poor conditions can ruin its characteristics. Temperature plays a significant role in this process.
If the temperature in your cellar goes too high, what happens to your wine cannot be undone. That is why you should be well aware of the seasonal changes in temperature in the area where you live. It will play an essential role in choosing the right location for your wine cellar. Here are some necessary recommendations.
Choose the basement located on the north side if possible. If you prefer a corner, the northeast basement area should be your preferred choice. These parts of your home have the most stable temperature, and that’s something to keep in mind.
The ideal humidity
You might have heard that the humidity inside a wine cellar can be anywhere between 50% and 80%. While this information is accurate, you should aim for a perfect 70% humidity level. Why? Variations that might be out of your control will drop or get high within a smaller range if you already keep your wine cellar at the ideal humidity.
The risks of lack of humidity are not to take lightly. Corks reduce their size and let air get in and oxidize the wine. Bottles start to leak, and you will end up with a lot of wine that’s impossible to drink. Also, don’t let the humidity get too high; fungal growth will affect corks, too, and your wine will deteriorate exponentially.
The good idea is to invest in a hygrometer that will help you monitor the humidity levels so that you can achieve the perfect conditions for your wine cellar without too much hassle.
Why low light conditions are essential for aging wine
Another thing you should be aware of is that wine can modify its characteristics even when stored in sealed bottles if it’s exposed to light. Leaving a bottle of wine out in the sun, exposed to UVs, is the worst thing you can do, as that wine will surely turn bad and become impossible to serve.
Light, even when it comes from fluorescent bulbs, can have a devastating effect on aging wine. It will cause the tannins in the wine to deteriorate, and the liquid will age too fast. Your wine cellar mustn’t have any sources of light. Complete darkness might not be possible to achieve, especially when you need to go to the basement to inspect your bottles.
There is a solution, and that is to choose low wattage bulbs and place them in such a manner that they don’t direct light straight to the wine bottles. If they just reflect light on a wall, they are an excellent solution to this problem.
No funky smells
Wine is quite pretentious, and that is why the list of recommendations for a good wine cellar doesn’t stop here. Another factor that can affect the quality of the wine is any smell that can change it. Odors can get inside wine bottles because corks are made to be permeable.
Anything, from gasoline to any other chemical-based product with a strong smell, to foods that release potent odors such as cheese, should be stored anywhere but inside your wine cellar. Some things might not be easy to detect, such as the smell of detergents. To ensure that your wine cellar offers excellent conditions, you should consider a carbon filter. It will take care of any odors, and your wine will be protected.
Why vibrations can be a damaging factor
Your wine cellar should be located away from public roads on which heavy vehicles travel every day. To age well, wines need to rest, and that means that vibrations are out of the question. They could make the sediment resting on the bottom of wine bottles to rise and affect the taste of wine. You can tell such an effect happened if your wine has an acidic taste.
The role of a proper cooling system
To ensure that your wine cellar has the perfect conditions for this beverage to age well, it is highly recommended to invest in a dependable cooling system. This system should be placed inside and process the air from another room, and not from outside, as you might know.
A cooling system does more than just regulate temperature, and it plays a significant role in how humidity is adjusted. Therefore, a functional unit will help you hit two birds with one stone. You will manage to keep the temperature within the ideal range, while humidity will remain between 60% and 80%.
The role of such a unit is to keep temperature and humidity steady, and it prevents essential changes. Don’t even think about choosing an air-conditioning unit, as you use for the rest of the house. These units are the opposite of what you need, as they dry the air, and they also cause vibrations while they are inefficient in lowering the temperature.
What materials to use for insulation?
While the cooling unit has its role to play inside a wine cellar, you need to make sure that the room is perfectly insulated so that constant temperature and humidity are guaranteed. A highly recommended material for insulating your basement is urethane. It allows you to seal the walls and the ceiling so that nothing gets out.
You can make your insulation better by installing rigid insulation panels. You will find that mineral wool makes an excellent barrier, but be aware that moisture can degrade it in time. For the walls, you should get a drywall that is resistant to water. Behind it, install plywood panels that can be used for installing racks later, as your wine collection grows.
The ideal choice remains natural stone, but this is not something anyone can opt for, as it can be expensive, and these conditions are not easy to meet. If you need to paint the walls, use one based on latex and resistant to mold. Also, remember that wine prefers darkness, so dark colors are the indicated choice.
A few considerations
Here are a few other things you should know about building the perfect wine cellar. The door should be insulated, too, as humidity can escape through it. In the case that you want to install a glass door, it is highly recommended to use UV-resistant glass.
Don’t forget to install a lock on the door, too. Since you don’t want random people to access the wine cellar and leave the door open or expose, accidentally, your wine to factors that can ruin its characteristics, you must control the access to this room.
For the floors, the choices are varied. Natural stone would be ideal, but any moisture-resistant material works. Ceramic tiles are an excellent choice, and marble is also perfect. Under no circumstances should you consider placing carpets inside the wine cellar. They will absorb moisture and transform into an environment for mold to grow.
Here is a small trick on how you can obtain the desired humidity inside your wine cellar. Take advantage of the natural moisture of the ground beneath by drilling holes along the walls to allow the moisture to get in. You don’t have to leave them open as they might let creepy crawlers get inside. Cover them with a bit of gravel, and you’re set.