The presence of a wine cellar in a house is a symbol of luxury and extravagance. It is an uncommon feature for most homeowners, which is why you might be asking; do wine cellars need to be underground? In this article, we have researched that question, and we'll give you the answer.
Yes, it has to be underground because it is a cellar, if it were not underground, it is no longer called a cellar. The dictionary defines a cellar as a room below ground level in a house. So if you hear the term wine cellar it is automatically located underground.
Continue reading as we discuss more details about the topic such as ideal conditions for wine storage, passive wine cellars, converting a basement to a wine cellar, and many more.
Can a wine cellar be above ground?
Once you put your wine storage room above ground, it is automatically disqualified to be called a cellar. It is now only called a wine room even if its design and appearance are the same as those that are built and located underground.
The practice of storing wine underground has been observed by humans for thousands of years, as evident in archeological finds at the Canaanite palace in Israel that date from 3,700 years ago.
The method of storing wine underground can be attributed to the fact that naturally, the basement part of any structure is the coolest, which makes it the best for storage as the cold serves as a preserving agent, and also makes the wine naturally chilled; making it tastier.
With the advent of today's technology, a wine cellar is more of a tradition than being a function for keeping your wine preserved and cold as chillers and refrigerators are now available. Some modern wine cellars even have climate control, which basically makes it a walk-in fridge.
What are the ideal conditions for wine storage?
The concept of wine storage from millenniums ago is not very different to today, the only difference is technology makes it easier for you to create a desirable place for your wine to be hoarded.
A cool, dry place away from direct sunlight with a temperature of 55° Fahrenheit and a Relative Humidity of 60-65% are the optimal environmental conditions for a wine storage place, especially if you are planning on storing it for a long time.
The cool temperature helps in slowing down the aging of wine, while the high humidity, acts as an agent that blocks out the moisture inside the wine bottle from escaping to the cork to evaporate.
Regular basements have to be tailored for these conditions as they usually don't meet the required specification for this undertaking. These wine cellars are also called cooled cellars.
What is a passive wine cellar?
When you say passive wine cellar, this is the original way that people began storing their wines.
These cellars are not tampered with by climate-controlling technology and only use ambient temperature, in other words, the natural way of constructing wine cellars.
You can find such cellar styles in places where the temperature is normally colder as it is easier for their basements to maintain a cool temperature.
This type of wine cellar works best for wines that will be used immediately with no intent of aging them. This is typical with cheap wine compared to expensive ones that are stored for years to reach a certain age, which is supposedly making it more delicious and valued.
A passive wine is easier to maintain as you do not have any climate controlling system to tend to, which also makes it cheaper on your electricity bill. This is a great option if you are still on a budget when it comes to your monthly expenses.
Does a wine cellar need ventilation?
Yes, a wine cellar needs ventilation as it helps regulate the air quality of the room. Without proper ventilation, the growth of mold is highly likely as poorly ventilated rooms are often damp and full of moisture.
If your cellar has barrels of wine in it, the mold can form on your barrels and slowly compromise its quality. Furthermore, improper ventilation can also do damage just as much as no ventilation.
Too much ventilation can cause condensation on the walls of your cellars. Unlike ordinary cellars, wine cellars must maintain sensitive conditons because of the vulnerability of wine. As we mentioned above, there are recommended temperature and humidity levels for optimal wine storage.
The main difference is that wine cellar ventilation options (especially modern ones) have controlled ventilation, meaning that it is regulated by a mechanical ventilator such as exhaust or fans that help clean the air from pollutions. These ventilations can also be paired with a climate control system.
We have discussed cellar ventilation in a more broad and in-depth analysis in one of our previous articles, you can check it out to learn more.
Can I convert my basement into a wine cellar?
It is very possible to transform your basement into a wine cellar, all you need is the proper planning and execution.
First, you have to identify if it is compatible with the type of basement that you have. If your basement is in bad condition, you would have to repair and repurpose it to suit wine storage in it.
Stripping and waterproofing your basement should be your number one priority especially if there is already a presence of mold in the area. That is why proper inspection and evaluation are needed so that you can also identify leaks and other damage that could be present in your basement.
The space of your basement should also be considered if it is already very small and cramped, you might have a difficult time accessing it, especially since you would have to install racks for your wine. If your basement is not suitable, you can always create a separate room in your house.
Other factors such as lighting also have to be considered as wine cellars need to be cool and dark places. The basement is already ideal, so if you are installing lights, they should be dim.
How much does it cost to convert your basement to a wine cellar?
Installing a wine cellar in your house is no joke when it comes to the financial side of things. A small wine cellar remodel can cost you at the very least $40,000.
For a large, whole-basement wine cellar, or an Italian-style wine cellar, the cost can skyrocket by as much as $100,000 to $200,000.
Usual prices for wine cellar construction range from $300 to $600 per square foot. Prices may vary depending on the design that you want and your location.
These figures are only talking about the construction of your cellar, other components such as your climate control system can also cost you additional hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on the system that you want to be installed.
But having one installed helps raise the value of your house as this is an additional amenity and can attract buyers who want a wine cellar in their house.
For it to be called a wine cellar, it has to be underground, a cellar literally means a room underground. If your wine storage room is above ground, it is now only categorized as a wine room. Through the help of modern technology, wine storage can now be done above ground, as opposed to ancient times.