Here's How to Design Your Own Wine Cellar
Get your very own home wine cellar up and running with these tips.
Making the step from collecting a few bottles of vino to creating your own walk-in wine cellar can be a daunting task. According to wine enthusiast Joseph Armentano, CEO of Rye Brook’s Paraco Gas, the first step is deciding how many bottles you want to store. “A wine cellar of approximately 1,500 to 2,000 bottles is ideal from my standpoint,” says Armentano, who has overseen the construction of two separate cellars.
For Anthony D’Arpino, owner of Harrison Wine Vault, storage climate is paramount: “When planning an active wine cellar, having a constant temperature of 55 degrees and a humidity level between 55 and 70 percent are the two most important conditions. If your wine goes from one extreme temperature to another, it can go bad. And you need to maintain more than 50 percent humidity, because you don’t want your corks drying out.”
When deciding where to build, D’Arpino recommends amateur oenophiles first select between an active and passive cellar. “A passive wine cellar is usually located in a basement, and does not rely on cooling units,” he says. “This is only an option if your basement holds a constant daily temperature.” An active wine cellar relies on a cooling unit and provides more flexibility as to where it can be located. “We have some clients that have built [active] wine cellars in their main living space,” says D’Arpino.
“When planning an active wine cellar, having a constant temperature of 55 degrees and a humidity level between 55 and 70 percent are the two most important conditions.”
The next question is how to stock it. “In my wine cellar I like variety,” says Armentano, who prefers buying six bottles or fewer of a type of wine rather than cases. “My average bottle price is about $50, which means I’m going to have some wines that cost $10 to $20 a bottle, and some that are $100 to $300 a bottle. Probably 80 to 90 percent are reds, because whites do not store as well,” he notes.
“The point of having a wine cellar is stocking it with wines that you like to drink,” adds D’Arpino. “But you should have a certain level of diversity in your collection. Be aware that most wine being released — especially in that $10 to $25 range — is made to be consumed within two to five years upon release.” He adds that some collectors keep a small contingent of very pricy bottles that can be sold to help offset the cost of the cellar.
So, how much will this all run you? Armentano says you should expect to cough up between $25,000 and $100,000 on an average wine cellar. If that seems a bit pricey, keep in mind cellars are often as vital for entertaining as they are for storing vino. “To me, it’s more about the people experience than it is about the wine experience,” says Armentano.