Wine Cellar Storage
Many collectors start buying long before they have a “proper” wine cellar, so the chance to build a custom wine cellar is an exciting turning point in the lives of many wine lovers. While we encourage all clients to invest in a home cellar, the planning, timing, and management of such a project are not the same for everyone. Having a home cellar is the ultimate in easy access, both for deliveries and consumption. Almost without exception, collectors using offsite or 3rd party storage facilities exclusively, enjoy their wines less frequently. There are situations where a home cellar may be impractical, but almost everyone has enough room for at least a 30-60-bottle stand-alone wine unit.
A very common pitfall in cellar design is underestimating the future size of a collection. From an access standpoint, management and organization of a wine cellar that is “too large” is much easier than one beyond capacity. A common sighting in our travels is a cellar where our client drinks only from a few select boxes (usually recent arrivals) that are stacked right in front of the cellar door. Boxes have become so backed up that a client cannot even walk into their cellar. Further, the upfront costs of building a slightly larger wine cellar are much lower than expanding sometime in the future. Rack space is usually priced per bottle, but room prep, insulation, cooling equipment become proportionately less expensive with increasing size.
Beyond the physical space, we urge wine enthusiasts to do soul searching about their collecting habits when designing a wine cellar. Do you collect champagne, large format bottles, half bottles (splits)? These formats provide the most common headaches if space is not allocated ahead of time. Also, many collectors fail to think ahead to future purchases. Flexible design, with bins and racking that can accommodate a range of bottle types and sizes is always best.
Organization & Inventory Management
Every collector has his own idea of what an organized cellar would look like. With premier wine clients, we spend a great deal of time trying to understand how a client accesses their collection and what type of system is most intuitive for that individual or family. Generally speaking however, we use some variation on an “appellation by producer by vintage” model. That is, zones of the cellar correspond to wine regions or grape types, with producers and vintages sorted together. For wine cellar management, we encourage clients to place older wines towards the bottom of racks and the youngest wines at the top. Think of the common term “vertical collection.” Likewise, grouping all wines in the same region this way allows for easy reference to other producers within the same vintage or consecutive vintages. Exceptions do occur, and include rapidly maturing vintages that need immediate attention, or particularly stout wines, which need time beyond what their age, might suggest. Also, we notice that even the best organization and inventory management system is no substitute for impulsivity, so wines ready to drink are displayed invisible and easy to reach areas of the cellar.
We encourage clients to reserve a section of their wine cellar for “everyday” or “grab bag” wines where stringent organization is not necessary. Finally, one must have a plan if space becomes tight in a main cellar. We employ two main avenues for arranging off-site storage. One is to assign a vintage cut off, where new wines are off-site, and the other is to use a sample selection model. In this arrangement, the main cellar may hold only a few bottles of any given wine, with the remaining bottles of a case being stored offsite. In this way, your wine cellar is a “snapshot” of the entire collection, and depleted bottles can be replaced over time.
Photos courtesy of Vineyard Wine Cellars