There’s no easy answer to that question. Planning for and building a wine cellar is a process that is unique to its owner. And like a custom-tailored suit or pair of shoes, a cellar should be designed to grow with you over time. There are so many variables to consider, but let’s explore a few parameters that should help you get started.
How Much Space Do You Have for Your Wine Cellar?
This is the most obvious place to begin. Unless you plan on removing walls or expanding your home’s footprint you’re probably working with a fixed space. Whether in a basement, spare room, closet, an enclosure in the center of a room, or even on a wall, in most cases the size and shape of the area will be relatively clear.
But if not, you’ll have to decide how much space to dedicate to what will essentially be a permanent feature of the house. Consider the big picture when planning, including any future renovations and improvements that may also need the square footage. And lastly, something you may not be thinking about: what design approach is most likely to add to the value of the home, should you decide to sell.
What is Your Wine Cellar Construction Budget?
Naturally, a larger wine cellar is going to cost more than a small one. But there’s more to a cellar’s cost than just its footprint. The style of racking, the quality of the materials within, and the cooling system all add up.
A larger space requires a higher-powered cooling system which costs more to purchase, run, and maintain over the life of the cellar. Use our cooling calculator to make sure you choose wisely.
First and foremost, a wine cellar should provide the ideal environment to store and age your collection so that you can enjoy it at its best. And if your goal is to proudly display your collection and even use the space for entertaining, it should be aesthetically pleasing too. So, if your budget is limited, it’s almost always better to go with a small, high-quality design rather than aim too high and end up with a large one that sacrifices its function and/or form.
What Kind of Wine Collector are You?
Believe it or not, you don’t need a lot of room for a serviceable wine cellar. Even a modest space of 5’ x 5’ (25 sq ft or 23.2 sq m) with 9’ (2.74 m) ceilings can hold about 500 bottles of wine. If you’re a casual enthusiast this may be all you need. A niche collector with a handful of rare bottles may require even less space.
On the other hand, an area of 500 sq ft (46.5 sq m) can store roughly 4,300 bottles of wine. That’s a lot of wine – more than most of us can consume in a lifetime! Cellars of this size are typically for commercial use, and those who invest in wine for a profit.
Do you aspire to be a casual collector, a large-scale investor, or something in between? This is where it pays to, “know thyself.”
How Will You Use Your Wine Cellar?
Will your cellar be strictly used for storing and aging wines, or will it be a showpiece in your main living space? Perhaps you envision a wine room where you’ll entertain guests. The actual storage space may only be a fraction of the overall footprint, with most of it dedicated to a table, chairs, maybe even a bar. The way you intend to use your cellar will inform its design. Check out our projects gallery here for some inspiration.
How Much Wine Do You Actually Drink?
Americans, on average drink about 3 gallons, or 15 bottles of wine per person, per year. If there are two wine lovers in the house, that’s about 30 bottles. On the higher end of the average, avid wine enthusiasts might drink one or two bottles a week. That’s 50-100 bottles per year. And if you entertain at home, that number might be even higher.
Therefore, the matter of cellar size is so unique to the owner.
How much wine you drink does factor into your capacity. But it’s not as simple as, “wine goes in, wine comes out.” Some wines are ready to drink now and then there are those that will be in your cellar for a much longer time. As the long-term, age-worthy wines start to take up more and more shelf space, you’ll want a little extra for the natural ebb and flow of the daily drinkers.
The Best Size for Your Wine Cellar: Just Right
There are so many variables when building a wine cellar, but at some point, you’re going to have to commit to a final design. Based on the parameters discussed here, and a little bit of wild abandon, you can make an educated guess and go for it. And if you need additional guidance, our featured distributors can help you with the design process.
Collecting wine is less about need, and more about want; it’s not the end of the world if you miscalculated your storage space by a few dozen bottles. The good news is that if you overestimated, you’ll have room for more. And if you underestimated, you’ll just have to drink – or gift – your wine faster.
The true size of your wine cellar should be measured in how much joy it brings to your life! But when you’re ready to take the actual measurements, be sure to start with our cooling calculator.