Adding an underground wine cellar

Struggling to find a home for your growing wine collection? Then it may be time to upgrade your modest kitchen wine rack into a grand underground wine cellar.

Large wine rack for an underground wine cellar

As well as providing more than ample storage space, a wine cellar lets you showcase your passion and can even double up as a place to entertain guests and fellow oenophiles in the comfort of your own home.
Before you get carried away with the beautiful design potential for your wine cellar, however, don’t forget the real reason for it – to keep your wine in the best possible condition and preserve the quality and unique flavours in your collection for many years to come.

Climate control

Many people wrongly assume that an underground wine cellar will be naturally cool. In fact, for underground wine cellars in Australia, the opposite is true. This enclosed space can result in cooked wine in the summer months, and as the temperature varies again in winter, cherished and rare wine varieties can become completely ruined.
It’s therefore vital to install the correct climate control equipment to keep temperature and humidity levels just right. The idea temperature for wine cellars is 14 degrees, give or take a degree, whilst humidity levels need to be kept between 65% and 75%. In low humidity, corks dry out, which lets in air and oxidises the wine. In extremely high humidity, label mould can occur. Make sure your wine cellar climate is properly maintained.

Insulation and vapour barriers

A poorly insulated wine cellar will cost you more than a few ruined bottles in the long run. Storing your wine correctly means keeping temperature and humidity levels under constant control, so you’ll need to invest in the kind of insulation that’s up to task.
In maintaining the correct insulation of your underground wine cellar, you’ll need to install a vapour barrier to keep your cellar free from the humidity of the surrounding area. A vapour barrier generally consists of a closed-cell spray-on insulation foam and should be placed on the warm side of your walls and ceiling. This keeps moist air inside, whilst preventing condensation developing on the outside of your wine cellar walls. Consequently, being able to control the amount of moisture in your cellar will help to conserve energy and prevent mould growth too.
Basement wine cellar

Best location

Wine cannot thrive in just any underground location in your home, so before you settle on a definite location for your wine cellar, take the time to consider certain factors. As underground wine cellars are commonly constructed in the basement, for example, consider what your wine cellar would be sharing a space with.
Placing your cellar in the vicinity of a laundry room, a boiler or air conditioning unit, for instance, will all have detrimental effects on your wine collection. This is because wine is sensitive to vibrations and odours. The vibrations alone, from having these appliances nearby, is enough to shake your wine racks and stir up sediments in the wine. Similarly, if any odours are present around your cellar, wine can absorb them through the cork, so be sure to consult a renovation builder when deciding on the best location for your wine cellar.

Wine rack system

The beauty of an underground cellar is the vast amount of space you have to play with when it comes to designing your storage system. Depending on how you prefer to organise your collection, you may wish to dedicate a shelf to each variety or display your youngest and oldest bottles on opposite walls. However, you choose to design it, you should let your wine cellar tell the story of your passion. Stepping apart from run-of-the-mill wine cellars can add significant value to your home that, much like the wines they house, can only get better with age!
A growing trend in cellar design is for compact and hidden away cellars, such as spiral wine cellars. These are concrete, cylindrical systems that are completely watertight to keep your treasured collection safe and can store more than 1,800 bottles! Not only are spiral cellars a fantastic space-saving solution, but with a sleek trap door design, they also look ultra-high-tech. It’s not every day that a trap door in the home leads to an impressive and beautifully arranged wine collection!
Since not all wine bottles are made equal, it’s also wise to consider a versatile wine rack system in your cellar design, allowing you to house bottles of all shapes and sizes. Horizontal covers are a good alternative to standard rack designs, since these can hold varied sizes of bottles securely with the labels on display.

Choice of lighting

Your wine cellar is more than just a storage solution, it’s a room where your collection can be displayed in all its glory, which is why lighting plays a big part in the overall décor. We’d recommend installing low-voltage or LED lights, as these will give off the least amount of heat. Using bold bright lighting can risk damaging the wine, so opt for a lighting solution that allows you to read the labels clearly without causing too hot an environment.
It’s a good idea to install set timers and motion sensors in the cellar to make sure lights are only on when necessary. If lights are left on for long periods, this could heat up the cellar and put all your efforts to waste. Recessed lighting and sconces can provide fairly subtle, yet effective lighting solutions.
Low lighting in a basement wine cellar

Choosing the most appropriate flooring

Like the walls and shelving, the floor of your wine cellar should be incredibly resilient and resistant to moisture. Some good choices for durable floor material in your wine cellar are brick, stone and tiled flooring. More expensive, but luxurious flooring options for wine cellars, include marble and hardwood. For something a tad different, cork flooring can make for a durable, rather fitting choice!
As for flooring no-no’s in your wine cellar, we should stress that carpeting of any kind should be avoided at all costs. The cool, damp conditions of the cellar will only cause mould and mildew to form – not a good look or smell for your home wine cellar.

Airflow and ventilation

Since wine thrives best in cooler temperatures (and ages more slowly), the importance of adequate airflow and ventilation in an underground wine cellar cannot be over-emphasised. Maintaining good airflow to your cellar will keep it free from any persistent odours and will ensure a healthy and long-life for your wines.
The room adjoining your wine cellar is known as the exhaust room and if you want your cellar space to stay at a cool and constant temperature, the exhaust room will require a cooling unit. A cooling unit will blow cool air into the cellar at a 45-degree angle, which then pushes warm air to the ceiling. This warm air is then brought into the unit and passes into the exhaust room – helping to regulate the temperature in the wine cellar.

Choosing the right door style

All the effort that goes into creating the ideal wine cellar can quickly be erased by choosing the wrong type of door or opening. More important than its aesthetic appeal, the door to your wine cellar needs to be made of material that will provide an air-tight seal and prevent cooling loss. To strike the balance between beauty and function, glass cellar doors can make a good choice. Just make sure that the glass is well insulated and also tempered to prevent shattering. A renovation builder will help you to choose the best quality materials and appropriate door type for your cellar’s entrance.
Depending on your preference, you can choose between a traditional swing door, or sliding mechanism, or even a motorised cellar door that can be activated using a wireless remote control. The latter can offer added peace of mind for times when you may have accidentally left the cellar door open!
Once you’re confident that your chosen materials have your wine’s best interests at heart, there’s no reason why you can’t get creative with your door’s design. Your cellar door, after all, will be the first thing your guests notice, so don’t be afraid to create a custom design that is unique to your cellar. Statement door styles can include solid mahogany doors that are reminiscent of some of the world’s grandest wineries or sliding French doors for a homely yet luxurious touch.
Hopefully the above mentioned tips have given you a better understanding of what’s needed in creating the perfect underground wine cellar for your home. To ensure your wine-cellar is quality-made and everything you hoped for, be sure to enlist the help of a renovation builder to bring your ideal wine cellar to life.
The experienced renovation builder will appreciate that your wine collection is your pride and joy, and therefore will aim to deliver an efficient and high-quality wine cellar for your home.

Get in touch with Refresh to discuss your home renovation project

If you would like to discuss underground cellar ideas and options for your home renovation project, please use the enquiry form on this page to provide us with your contact details. We will get in touch with you at a time that suits you to discuss your project. If you would like to provide us with more information about your project, we have a more comprehensive enquiry form on our "Get in touch" page too.
*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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