Wine Cellars - Can you Risk Not Having One?
Do you need to store a large amount of wine? Is your collection that large that you are running out of space on your wine rack? If so, a wine cellar might be something you need!
A wine cellar is simply an area where you can store large amounts of wine, either in bottles or barrels, and is normally constructed underground. The reason for this is to give the cellar environment optimal conditions so that the wine will not spoil but will improve with age, even after years. Remember, the only way to do this is to have the temperature and humidity controlled so that they remain fairly constant. The best way to do this is to build your cellar underground. For many people, building a wine cellar underground isn't possible, so it must be built above ground. However, if it is built above ground, or has less than 500 bottles, it is more accurately described as a wine room rather than a wine cellar.
The main purpose of a wine cellar is actually to protect the wine from factors that could damage the wine. These factors are high temperatures (and temperature fluctuations), light and low humidity. These factors will have an adverse effect on wine, so protecting the wine from wide fluctuations in these factors is absolutely crucial. The payoff from proper cellaring will be that the wine not only keeps its freshness, but the flavour, aroma and complexity will also be markedly improved.
If you are serious about a wine cellar, it needs to be designed properly. The temperature in the wine cellar must stay between 13 and 18 degrees with no source of vibration. If it is built properly underground, the change of temperature due to seasons should not affect the cellar. This is why for many years, underground caves were favoured by the French for storing their wines, as the temperature stayed fairly constant no matter what the normal outdoor temperature was. This temperature is crucial, as if the temperature gets much about 18 degrees, the wine will mature too fast and runs the risk of tasting more like vinegar when it is opened.
If you live in a tropical climate, a wine cellar must be built fairly deep. However, this is normally impractical, so some sort of method of cooling is required. This cooling method is called active cooling and normally requires some sort of insulation to maintain the temperature at a constant level. The advantage to this is that you can use it for above ground wine rooms, and you can be assured that there will be no wild fluctuations in temperature. The disadvantage of this is that it can be expensive to run, as electricity will be required. The other method of cooling is termed passive cooling, which simply allows the cellar to cool with the external temperature. No electricity is required for this and is therefore cheap to build and run. However, the disadvantage of this is that you are at the mercy of the elements. If the temperature gets too hot or too cold outside, the quality of the wine might be compromised. The type of cooling you choose will as a result of whether the wine cellar is located underground or not, plus also your geographic location.
So if you are serious about protecting your wine collection, or have a lot of very valuable bottles of wine that need to be aged for a few years, a wine cellar could be what you need. However, a wine cellar is more than just a hole in the ground. Care must be taken when designing it, as there are many factors that need to be considered, such as the size and how the temperature and humidity will be controlled. If this is done properly, the reward will be fantastic wine that is aged properly.