Lifestyle

The truth is in the wine, but the risk is in the storage.

Cellars are growing in popularity. Experts offer tips on how to keep your collection in the perfect environmental conditions.

Boston Wine Cellar Designs Inc
Boston Wine Cellar Designs Inc. installed this wine cellar in lawyer Steve Ross's Natick home. It can hold 2,000 bottles and features a 4-foot corkscrew from Napa Valley, Calif. Boston Wine Cellar Designs Inc.


Americans love their wine. According to the Wine Institute, a San Francisco-based trade association for the California wine industry, Americans consumed 1.1 billion gallons of it in 2021 — that’s 3.18 gallons per person for those who are wondering — up from 1 billion gallons a year earlier. While some connoisseurs buy wine to drink it immediately, others collect it, either for personal enjoyment years later when the wine ages perfectly or for investment. Proper storage is key to protecting the value of those collections.

Wine needs to be stored in the perfect environmental conditions to preserve it. If the temperature is too warm, the wine can be ruined. If the humidity is too low, the cork can dry out. According to Marshall Tilden III, chief revenue and education officer, commerce at Wine Enthusiast, there’s a difference between storing and serving temperatures. Wine — whether red, white, or sparkling — should be stored between 53 and 57 degrees Fahrenheit, with the humidity level between 50 percent and 80 percent, he said. Wine also needs to be protected from vibration, odors, and light.

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Homeowners have two choices for storage that will provide this protection. “If you’re just starting out, a freestanding unit is the easiest way to store and display your wine,” Tilden said. “These are attractive units that beautify your home and let you avoid the process of constructing a cellar.”

One example: The VinoView wine cellar, which holds up to 155 standard-size Bordeaux bottles while allowing you to show off your labels. It retails for $2,699.

But wine collections have a habit of growing, so homeowners often need more storage.

Steve Ross, a lawyer and hard-money lender in Natick, has always enjoyed wine, and, at one point, he had five freestanding wine cellars in his basement. So, when he put a 2,000-square-foot addition onto his home in 2017, he decided to consolidate his collection of red and white wines from Europe and California and included a spacious wine room with the capacity for 2,000 bottles. The room, which cost $50,000, is near the dining room on the main level of his four-bedroom Colonial, making access to the wine easier but also allowing Ross to show off his collection to guests. A 4-foot corkscrew from Napa Valley, Calif., serves as a focal point on the wall of the wine room.

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“It’s all glass and reclaimed wood,” Ross said of the space. “I look at wine as art. I can’t imagine not having it on the main floor. It’s well worth the extra expense for the convenience and aesthetics.”

Felicia Captain, a real estate broker with Coldwell Banker in Wellesley, said she’s seeing a lot of newly constructed homes with wine cellars incorporated into the design, often crafted from glass and metal. She said nearly all of the luxury homes she’s sold recently have a wine refrigerator in the kitchen as part of the appliance package.

“I’m not sure if a wine cellar adds value to a home, and I’ve never had a buyer say they want a home with a wine cellar,” Captain said. “But I have seen many high-end cellars in homes that allow for people to congregate and use more as a living space than just storing wine.”

Some homeowners still prefer the traditional look and Old World feel of a basement wine cellar constructed of wood.

“Most of our projects are still in the basement,” said Ed Loughran, founder and owner of Charles River Wine Cellars in Walpole. “There’s more space available for larger capacity.”

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Loughran said basement cellars can be constructed from all types of wood species, not just the dark, traditional ones. He said white oak is popular now, as well as grayish wood stains, and both are well suited for use in traditional Cape Cod-style homes on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.

Custom wine cellars can cost $125,000 to $150,000, Loughran said, from framing to finish, for a 10-by-12-foot basement room. Installations on the main floor create more challenges, he said, because space is limited. It’s also difficult to hide the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems, so walls often need to be opened and then restored to create a clean look. A main-level room can subject wine to sunlight, vibration, and temperature fluctuations and may require protective modifications like UV protection on glass walls.

For those considering a custom wine cellar in their home, Loughran suggested first deciding on the optimal location. Homeowners should also decide whether they just want storage or also need adjacent entertainment space, as well as how many bottles they ultimately plan to store.

“We assess how much wine they have at the present time and what capacity they foresee in five and 10 years, and then we try to factor in another ten or twenty percent because clients often say they wish they had a little more capacity,” he said. “Once they get these rooms, they tend to fill them up.”

Robyn A. Friedman has been writing about real estate and the home market for more than two decades. Follow her on Twitter @robynafriedman. Send comments to [email protected].

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