Home wine cellars may sound like luxuries only allowed to the super-rich, but this is far from true. While building and maintaining cellar may take time and ingenuity, it does not have to be impossibly expensive. Home wine cellars are best created for the true wine connoisseur who needs their Pinot Gris correctly chilled and their vintage Malbec perfectly warm.
Determining what is needed for a proper home cellar depends largely on what kind of wine will be stored. If the collection will be focused on a specific type of wine, region, or serving temperature, the needs of the cellar can be focused to fit. If however, the collection is to contain widely different wines, some general storage plans may be useful.
To preserve wine correctly, a cool temperature and high humidity should be maintained. Ideally, the temperature should be between 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit (12.7-15.5 Celsius) with a humidity level of between 50-75% if possible. Some houses will have an area that maintains this temperature naturally, but if not, climate control is possible through the use of humidifiers and air conditioning. To keep temperature at the correct level, home wine cellars should be as closed off as possible from other rooms or even non-wine areas of the same room. Controlling the climate in a small area is considerably easier than trying to maintain perfect conditions across a large room.
Insulation and vapor barriers are main concerns while building home wine cellars. Once the room climate can be adequately controlled, proper insulation can keep it that way with minimal fuss, and prevent the high humidity level from affecting other areas of the house. This is where a do-it-yourself guide can come in extremely valuable. Check local bookstores for reference books to recommend the proper materials for the space.
In most home wine cellars, wine can be stored on racks or in refrigeration units. Custom built racks are available from many wine suppliers, and can be quite beneficial when trying to organize wine collections. Have a good idea how many bottles the cellar will contain so orders can be accurate. For those looking to save money, pre-fab wine racks are often available from home supply stores and can be far less expensive than custom furnishings.
Proper organization and labeling will go a long way to making home wine cellars easy to use. If bottles are arranged so the labels aren't readable, consider making tags for the necks of the bottle that list vintage, variety, and characteristics of the wine. This can prevent long trips to the cellar involving taking out dozens of bottles looking for just the right one. Savvy collectors may also want to include information about where and when the wine was purchased to help cue their memories about which '05 Zinfandel they bought in that little red winery in Napa, and which they bought at the big stone winery in Sonoma.