All About Wine Storage

Wine storage can be a practical addition that lets your wine build value and may prove a plus when you sell your house.

Plug-in wine refrigerators, which come in freestanding or under-counter units, hold between 20 and 150 bottles. Image: Aisha Zaza, editor of blog The Middle of Here

Whether you’re cellaring two cases or 20 means having wine storage that offers stable temperature and humidity.

What wine wants

Wine likes a stable temperature of about 55 degrees F. Below 50 degrees, wine stops maturing. Above 65 degrees, it may turn into vinegar — one reason why a rack of wine atop the refrigerator is a bad idea. Other key factors:

  • Consistency is key; a spike in temperature can ruin wine.
  • A relative humidity of about 60% is ideal. Corks dry out with less than 50% humidity; with more than 75% humidity, labels get moldy or fall off.
  • Too much light or vibration damages wine over time. Providing a stable, consistent environment is what wine storage is all about.

Storage options — wine coolers

To start, decide how much wine you’d like to store. If you’re thinking 20 to 150 bottles max, then a plug-in wine refrigerator, also known as a wine cooler, is your best bet. Wine refrigerators control temperature and humidity, and most have dual compartments for white and red wine. They come as freestanding or under-counter units.

A $500 wine cooler holds two or three cases. At the other end of the scale, a 170-bottle wine refrigerator, holding over 14 cases, costs about $2,000.

Storage options — built-ins

If you’d like to store more wine, a walk-in wine cellar might be the ticket. A wine cellar is a room dedicated to wine storage, with lots of open racks and a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment.

For about $3,000 in materials, a competent DIYer can build an 8-by-8-foot cellar that’ll store about 60 cases of wine — more than 700 bottles. That includes ready-made bottle racks, cedar paneling, wiring, a door, a cooler unit, and a humidifier.

Your chief costs will include the cooler unit ($800) and ready-made bottle racks ($62 per 44-bottle rack, or about $1,000 for an 8-by-8-foot cellar). Invest more in finish detailing, and you can have a showcase focal point.

To ensure proper humidity and temperature control, however, you should follow established guidelines for building a wine cellar, which include installing insulation and vapor barriers on walls, floors, and ceilings, and having backup battery protection for electrical equipment.

If you opt to hire a contractor, budget at least $6,000 more.

Where to locate a wine storage cellar

Wine lovers usually choose the basement as the spot for a wine cellar, with good reason. Basements have relatively stable temperatures in all seasons, low humidity fluctuations, and plenty of available space. However, basement conditions aren’t foolproof; you’ll still need a temperature- and humidity-controlled appliance or room for your wine.

The bottom line? You can build wine storage anywhere, as long as you control the storage environment.

Energy costs

A cooler unit for an 8-by-8-foot cellar costs about $10 per month to run, roughly the same as a mid-size refrigerator. Lighting costs are minimal — most of the time the light is turned off unless you opt for display lighting that’s switched on while entertaining.

Will a wine cellar save you money?

One saving you’ll experience immediately is the 10% to 20% price reduction for buying by the case instead of by the bottle.

Other than that, wine aficionados often hope that certain long-held vintages will increase in value. Check reviews and reputable vineyards for advice on young wines worth cellaring.

Will a wine cellar boost the value of your home?

Just as not everyone loves a swimming pool, not every potential buyer is an avid wine collector. Still, for an upper-end house, it’s usually a marketable asset.

“Among upscale buyers, there are more wine drinkers,” says Jeff Votaw, a broker and partner with Foundation Trust in San Jose, Calif. “A wine cellar is a plus — the nicer it is, the better.”