outside of the cellar, usually in the backyard, and piping the cool air in. A ducted system has a unit that resembles a window air conditioner and the exhaust has to be vented such as through a basement casement window, for
Photo courtesy of Vintage Cellars (www.vintagecellars.com).
instance. Some models can also be vented into the basement itself. The air handler pipes the cool air through ducts in the wine cellar.
Which system is better? Cox prefers a split system because the mechanical parts that can cause vibration are far from the unit. But he also says that a well-insulated basement wine cellar in a temperate climate may not need additional cooling at all unless there’s a furnace in the basement that makes the space hot and dry.
Wine cellar cooling expert John Cunney, owner of Design Heating and Air Conditioning in Woodbridge, Va., prefers Whisperkool’s split systems because they are easy to install and maintain. But he thinks that they are not a particularly attractive option because the evaporator is visible. If décor is a key concern, then he recommends Vinotheque’s ducted system, which he says is much less obtrusive.
Finish the Job Putting the finishing touches on the cellar includes adding flooring, electrical, lighting, paint and racks for the wine. Here are some important tips in creating your wine cellar.
• Avoid carpeting. It will soak up the moisture in the air. Wood flooring doesn’t work very well either because of the high moisture content in the unit. The best choice is tile.
• If you paint the walls, use a zero or low volatile organic compound (VOC) paint like Benjamin Moore’s Eco Spec. Low VOC paints have little or no odor and can pollute indoor air quality. Strong-smelling paints can corrupt the wine.
• While wine doesn’t like bright lights, you’ll still want to be able to see the labels and record which bottle you’re drinking, so adding electrical outlets and task lights is important. Walder also points out that if you’re converting an existing room, the electrical code will probably demand a certain number of outlets and neglecting to install them can lead to potential electrical danger.
• Adding racks is the final but very important step. The simplest and cheapest solution is pine diamond bins. WineRacks.com sells some that are sturdy.
Building a wine cellar can be an expensive proposition, but it doesn’t have to be. Adriennevan Dooren, author of The House that Faux Built: Transform Your Home with Paint, Plaster and Creativity, spent $950 to turn an ugly basement corner with 6½-foot ceilings into a charming wine storage area. The room doesn’t have a cooling system, although one could be added. “Room-temperature red wine isn’t a big deal for me,” Dooren said.
At the other end of the spectrum is the custom design department at Wine Enthusiast Co., a wine retailer and magazine publisher, based in upstate New York. As the custom design manager, Stephen Del Duca travels all over the world building custom wine rooms. He tells potential customers to expect to spend a minimum of $25,000 and a buyer who wants to go the distance can easily spend as much as $150,000.