The first and most important question you need to ask yourself is, “How serious am I about cellaring my wine?” By this I mean, “How much wine are you planning on storing and for how long?” This will dictate just how much effort and money you’ll need to build your cellar. If you aren’t that serious, then a dark room with enough shelf space should suffice. Otherwise, you major concerns are as follows:
This is crucial as high temperatures speed up the aging process, whereas low temperatures inhibit it. The allowable temperatures ranges are 5˚C to 18˚C.
In addition to this, there must be no significant temperature variation as it affects the expanding or contracting of the corks, and could potentially allow oxygen into the bottle which will cause oxidation. So, on top of being within the above range, the temperature must be consistent. Use of a minimum and maximum thermometer would give you an indication of whether you would need to install artificial temperature control for the space you have in mind.
Ultraviolet light at the end of the spectrum affects wine in negative ways. Some ill effects can be reversed by cellaring the wines in darkness for a few months after exposure, however others cannot. This includes both sunlight and artificial light. Therefore the lighting of the cellar must not be too bright, but should also be enough to allow you to see your way around, as well as to read the labels. The wines must otherwise be kept in absolute darkness.
Brown/ dead leaf coloured bottles offer the wine natural protection. Whereas, darker green bottles are better than light green. However, blue and colourless bottles are most vulnerable and must be placed in the darkest corners.
Between 60% and 70% humidity is essential for wines to keep the cork moist and flexible, thereby avoiding oxidation. As a result, long-term storage in domestic refrigerators should be avoided as the refrigeration process dehumidifies corks and they start to dry out.
Care needs to be taken so as not to promote the growth of mould, which occurs at about 80% humidity. The mould would begin to affect the wine labels, deteriorating them, which becomes an issue when trying to identify a wine or trying to resell the bottle. The wine inside, nevertheless, would be unaffected.
If the cellaring is not a big outfit and buying a machine is out of the question, you can just place an open container with water in it somewhere in the corner or the like.
These should be minimized especially when storing sparkling or mature wines with sediments (vibrations stir up sediments which you’d prefer to collect at the bottom of the bottle). Sound could cause vibrations as well and thus must be controlled for. This might entail keeping wines away from home appliances.
Most wines need to be laid horizontally, or at an angle either allowing the wine complete contact with the cork, or having some of the wine in contact with the cork and the rest with the air bubble. This is to keep the cork moist and thereby not have it dry out; which would let “heinous” oxygen in.
The exception to this is screw cap wines that do not need the wet contact (its metal) and sparkling wine as the CO2 provides enough humidity for the cork.
Naturally there should be limited access to the cellar, with only one point of entry, with the key held/pass code known only by you. It may be more difficult to notice missing bottles in large cellars, while expensive and rare bottles may be most painful to lose track of. The seriousness of the cellaring therefore is directly correlated with the importance of the measures to be installed.
There should be enough space to store the amount of wine that you expect to have. This should generally consider how quick you deplete and replenish the stock, as well. There’ll need to be wine racks along the walls, for example, to store individual bottles but also an area allowing for the storage of cases of wine you may have purchased.
Furthermore, there needs to be adequate room for manoeuvring around as you attempt to locate the bottle you want. In addition, there could be a desk where tastings can be done, or where documentation can be placed (see point below).
There should be some form of checklist inside the cellar where new bottles can be recorded and bottles taken out can be scratch off. If the cellar only contains 6 wines, this is not necessary, however if you are storing wines in the hundreds or thousands it would be a good idea to keep accurate records including vintage and when bought so as not to pass the optimum drinking point of the wines.
- Strong Smells
As the cork of a wine is porous, strong aromas can permeate it and affect the wines. As a result wines should be stored in aroma neutral environments away from things like paints, chemicals or vinegar.