Are you looking to make an investment in a wine cellar? Here’s what’s new and notable.
How much do you need to like wine to have a wine cellar? When I first started as a wine writer in the 1990s, cellars were a requisite part of every luxury home, like kitchen islands or walk-in closets. Building a showcase storage unit was a way to show off how successful you’d become. It didn’t even matter if you drank wine.
Wine has been democratized since then, a most welcome development. So has wine storage. Those who drink Chenin Blanc instead of beer on a Wednesday night have learned that most quality wines—even cru Beaujolais and ambitious rosés, let alone white Burgundy and Napa Cabernets—benefit from time in the bottle. To store them, they use wine cabinets, wine walls, wine units you can tuck under the sink. And wine cellars, from functional to gaudy, now say as much about you as the car you drive.
See the Bottle, Not the Cork
“The new trend right now,” says Christian Hancock of Salt Lake City’s Wine Racks America, “is label-out storage.” It took us generations to figure this out, but when you walk into a wine cellar, you want to actually see the wine, not just a whole bunch of corks wrapped in foil. “It’s the bottle that’s the beauty, not the cellar, right?” Hancock says. “So why not show that off?” His new CellarVue system uses both wood and metal to hold bottles horizontally with their labels in sight.
Another trend Hancock sees is flexibility. It used to be that you’d need to anticipate your wine needs for decades to come when you built your cellar. Later on, if you decided you loved collecting magnums or full cases and your racks held only standard 750 milliliter bottles, well, too bad. “We’re working with adjustable shelves now,” he says. “People’s collections change. They like bigger bottles. Smaller bottles. Even wines in screw caps that you can store vertically because the closure doesn’t need to stay moist.”
The Technology Keeps Improving
High-end cellars are evolving too. “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel in terms of how wine is stored,” says Brooklyn Hurst of Winnipeg’s Genuwine Cellars, who custom-designs units for customers around the world. “But the technology keeps improving. You’ve to get cellars that last far longer now.”
Browse his website and you’ll see post-modern cellars that look like something from a Star Trek episode. Thick walls, like in the subterranean caves that hold wines throughout Europe, are nowhere in sight. Even traditional wood shelving seems to be passé. “Glass wine cellars, seamless boxes, glass wine walls,” he says. “That’s a massive trend. So are curved racks, horizontal and vertical.”
Hurst reports that he recently designed several seven-figure cellars for Chinese clients for those who really love wine and see price as no object. The latest development in that rarified space? Building completely separate cellars for red wine, white wine, and Champagne. But where do they put the rosé?
Whether your cellar is high-end, post-modern, or glass, Wine Guardian encourages you to maintain your valuable collection at optimal conditions. Did you know that cellars with a lot of glass, for example, typically have a higher heat load than those without? Our experts are available to answer your questions so you can be sure that you’re purchasing a properly sized unit for your needs.