The Problem with Wine Cellars

A wine cellar is a repository of treasures in the form of liquid gold, be it red, rose, or white. The ability to drink wine from a collection on the spot is instant pleasure. Having an extensive one is a privilege indeed. For those of us in the wine business, living in the heart of wine country like Napa, it is expected to have the cellar well stocked with local vintages. There are responsibilities that go with the territory and most aficionados know their business. Caring for the wine involves all kinds of storage decisions and also the maintenance of temperature and humidity control. Newbies beware the pitfalls of the industry.

If you are new to the enterprise, it takes some consultation and discussion with the experts at Humidity Helper who will steer you straight and help you avoid costly errors. Installing humidifiers and dehumidifiers, for example, can make a huge difference in the outcome of a crop. The problem with most makeshift wine cellars is that they more than often do not have such appliances.

The average wine lover keeps a few bottles on hand, maybe a few cases of a favorite label—perhaps purchased on a wine tasting tour. The avid wine lover wants more. He or she will buy a storage unit with built-in racks that is beautifully climate controlled and that can be installed anywhere, or the individual will make a cellar in a part of the basement. It is all about the kind of experience desired. Basements can be man caves that include a custom bar and home entertainment systems or they can be the repository of the washer or dryer. How you see your collection will dictate the choice you make.

Temperature in a cellar or room can be erratic and vary with the seasons from sweltering hot to bitter cold. Your basement may not have A/C. You may want more or less moisture in the air as the case may be without it. So assessing your climate and individual needs is vital. You will no doubt place the cellar containing your prized collection in the optimal location on your property and you will go from there.

Humidifiers that emit steam and mist seem redundant in dank, moist basements, but they can be useful in dry, arid climates. Dehumidifiers take care of excess moisture that causes mildew and mold. You don’t want a lot of that decorating your oak barrels. Barrels must remain dry on the outside since mold can damage the wine.

There is a happy medium. Wine aging in barrels can lose volume if stored improperly. High humidity seems to be the environment of choice and natural cellars traditional served wineries and vintners. Nowadays, people use above ground cooled aging rooms with all the necessary modern technology. That means humidifiers used to cut loss by evaporation. I read about smart fog humidification which supplies “dry fog” to an area needing high humidity. Droplets are emitted that evaporate into the air. No free water collects on wine barrels and the aging room floor remains dry.