Do I need to condition my wine?
I often get this question at trade shows or in the first few minutes of a sales call. Most everyday drinking wine does not need climate controlled storage. That doesn't mean place it over the stove or refrigerator in a well heated "wine rack." If you are purchasing your wine and drinking that wine in the course of a year, then any "off-the-counter" wine refrigerator or a wine rack in a cool space in your home will be sufficient. If you start to purchase wines that need time to evolve then you should consider a conditioned wine space. Most reds should be stored around 57 degrees Fahrenheit and whites can be chilled to 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Whites and champagnes will store fine at 57 degrees but most consumers like those wines chilled. The environmental intent of a wine cellar is to keep your wine at a relatively constant 57 degrees and a relative humidity of between 60% and 70%. This will allow your collection to age as the wine maker intended. This will allow you to enjoy those wines 5, 10, or 20 years after the bottling.
Do I need a wine cellar?
A wine cellar can be as extravagant as a conditioned space with a tasting area, a kitchenette, a bar, and of course, wine storage. It can also be a closet, pantry or small room dedicated to just storage. If your collection has taken over the guest room, the kids’ play room or that space where the gym equipment is supposed to go, you might want to consider a wine cellar. Your collection has grown to a point where it needs to be managed so that those special wines don't get lost in piles and turn to "vinegar."
Can I use my existing HVAC system in my house to condition my wine cellar?
Your wine cellar should maintain a temperature of 57 degrees Fahrenheit and a relative humidity of 60% to 70%. Most houses today keep a temperature of 68 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit and a relative humidity of 25% to 35%. I have yet to see a whole house system that could be feasibly altered to create a separate zone to maintain a wine cellar environment. The availability of companies that successfully build standalone systems for wine cellars has come a very long way since the '90s.
These cooling units range from a basic air exchanger, starting at $700.00, to complex air handlers with all the bells and whistles for as much as $15,000.00 to $20,000.00. These systems are designed and built for the purpose of conditioning your room to an environment specific for cool, humid storage.
What type of chiller (wine cooler) should I buy?
There are three types of units that you can purchase to condition your wine cellar. All of these units require certain specifications that your room should be built to in order to maintain the correct environment as well as warranty the chiller.