Is your wine collection outgrowing your wine refrigerator? Thanks to efficient cooling systems and smart design, there’s no better time to consider a wine room.

Walk-in Wine Storage
Courtesy of Vineyard Wine Cellars
This gorgeous walnut cellar designed by Vineyard Wine Cellars serves as a centerpiece to a midcentury modern home and divides the open kitchen from the living room.

If you’re serious about wine, you’re probably serious about storage. Even casual wine lovers know better than to store their wine on the kitchen counter where light, temperature, and humidity can get the better of a bottle. These sippers stash theirs in the pantry, under the stairs, or in a cool corner of a closet. Casual collectors typically invest in a wine refrigerator, lay down a few cases to age, and call it a day. But if you’re the kind of wine buyer with an ever-growing collection and want to uncork that well-aged Napa Cab or Grand Cru Burgundy with confidence 10 years down the line, carving out enough safe storage space at home can be a challenge: Freestanding refrigerators offer limited space, basements can get hot thanks to furnaces and water heaters, and that magical 55°F can be an elusive temperature to maintain. 

Enter the wine room, a temperature- and humidity-controlled space that can be as small as a closet or big as your imagination, to preserve your growing collection with style. We spoke with the pros at Air Innovations, makers of Wine Guardian, a leading line of wine cellar cooling systems, to understand the ins and outs of graduating to a bona fide cellar. Here are the essential questions to consider.

How Big Do You Want to Grow Your Collection?

The biggest freestanding wine refrigerators top out at 180 bottles, or 15 cases, and while that’s certainly a lot of wine, if you’re acquiring multiple cases a year, you might hit that storage ceiling sooner than you think. Even some of the smallest wine rooms (think converted closets), can store five times that amount. “If you’re investing thousands of dollars in wine,” says Air Innovations’ North American Division Manager Michael Militi, “you don’t want to find out 10 years later that the wine you bought to age is not quite as good as it might have been if you had stored it perfectly. You’re going to want 100% of the nuance and only proper storage will guarantee that.”

Wine Guardian Cooling Unit
This through-the-wall wine cellar cooling unit from Wine Guardian allows homeowners to transform smaller spaces into a wine cellar without the help of a contractor.

Courtesy of Wine Guardian

Know Your Space

The space you’re working with and its location are going to determine the kind of cooling system you need. A through-wall unit can work for small rooms while ducted cooling units, and ducted and ductless split systems allow you to convert existing rooms above or below ground into wine rooms, or work with ground-up builds and gut remodels. For less than $10,000, you can convert a small room or large closet into a fully temperature- and humidity-controlled room, complete with vapor barriers and insulation to maximize efficiency. “When we begin a project we ask: What is the size? Where is the space? Is it going to incorporate glass?” says Militi. “Where are we going to put the mechanical? How serious is the collector?”

Wine Room with Wine Bottles on Display
The wine room just off this luxe basement rec room in La Jolla was designed by Vintage Cellars and safely stores and displays 300 bottles.

Courtesy of Vintage Cellars

Decide on Your Design

This is where the fun begins. “Decades ago it was that room in the basement that was out of sight and out of mind,” says Militi, “but now it’s become a common showpiece. And nine times out of 10, designs incorporate some kind of glass.” Dramatic glassed-in wine walls serve as focal points in living rooms or adjacent to dining rooms or kitchens, and some homeowners go so far as to create a full dining room inside the wine room to entertain guests surrounded by their precious collection. 

Go with a Pro

The path you take from vinous dream to wine-room reality can start with a conversation with an architect, contractor, or a wine room designer, but in the end is going to be, as Militi says, “a group effort.” Wine Guardian provides all things related to cooling equipment and climate control, while racking systems and the room build-out are handled by designers, cabinet makers, and other vendors. Leaders in wine-room design include Vintage Cellars, Genuwine Cellars, and Vineyard Wine Cellars.


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