Above-ground wine cellars are probably your most difficult wine cellars to build because of the amount of insulation that goes into them. Ideally, an above ground wine storage unit should be built in a shady spot to assist in cooling. Insulation for the walls should have a rating of at least R-13, while the floors and ceiling should be insulated around R-19 or higher. Make sure your walls have a vapor barrier to help in keeping the moisture out and ensure that your access is well sealed and insulated. A wooden door is very poor insulation, but some quick thinkers have tacked R-30 insulation to the back of wooden door accesses as a quick fix before they could afford something with a better seal and higher degree of insulation. Interior racking systems are at the builder's discretion, though remember that it's best to keep the wine with the cork facing downward in order to keep the interior part of the cork damp and sealed. Select a temperature control unit that can easily keep your storage area between 55 and 58 degrees and at an average humidity of 75%. A good book to read before building would be Dr. Richard Gold's How and Why to Build a Wine Cellar . It contains information from the effect of soil composition on building to details of light, heat and effect temperature control, as well as easy to follow building plans for the novice builder.
Underground cellars can be as complicated or as simple as you want them to be. The simplest way of installing an underground wine cellar is to buy one pre-built with stairs, lighting, temperature control and shelving already in place. With a hefty amount of concrete and a knowledgeable contractor, you can build your own wine cellar under your house.
For the novice builder, it's simply a matter of diligence and hard work to build an insulated wine storage room into your concrete basement. In all cases, you want to make sure you have your room very well insulated with vapor barriers and a well-sealed entryway so that you can easily control the temperature and humidity of your cellar space. A good reference source for a do-it-yourself wine cellar is the book How and Why to Build a Wine Cellar, 3rd Ed. by Richard M. Gold, Ph.d. Dr. Gold goes into the details of how temperature and type of soil effect your underground cellar and gives hundreds of great tips on wine preservation.
Wine cellars don't have to be free standing cabinets or cumbersome refrigerators blocking up your kitchen space. A fun, crafty way of handling your wine storage is to build wine rack cabinets right into an existing closet. First thing's first, it's a good idea to consult experts on what you're planning to do. Wine cellar installation experts are available, such as those at VigilantInc.com, but you can also call on a local contractor.
After ascertaining the dimensions of the to-be-renovated closet, decide on what sort of racking you would like to use: diamond bins, rectangular bins, square bins or simply shelves for case storage. Wine rack cabinets come in mahogany and can be built to fit perfectly in your closet space. You will also need to purchase a climate control/humidity control unit that will keep your closet dimensions between 55 and 58 degrees with 60 percent to 65 percent humidity (maximum). Also, make sure your closet is insulated and free of permeable surfaces, such as raw wood or un-insulated drywall. Your floor, walls and ceiling all need to be well insulated so the climate control system can properly handle the space without costing you an arm and a leg. After your closet space is properly insulated, be sure to follow your building plans exactly. It's much easier to install your wine storage closet correctly the first time than it is to repair a costly mistake later on.
When building a place to store your wine, keep in mind that you want as little light as possible to reach your bottles. Although vibration is mentioned occasionally as being harmful to wine, it really isn't that big of a problem. Sure, you don't want to have the bottles sitting on top of the refrigerator, but that's more of an issue of radiant heat than bottle shaking. The only reason to avoid excess vibration is if the bottles are in danger of breaking. Too much light, however, is a different problem. Light heats wine and the ultra violet rays in light could potentially degrade normally stable organic compounds within the wine. Since these compounds are essential to the structure, aroma and taste of the wine, too much light can potentially destroy a perfectly good bottle.
Humidity is important, since it keeps your cork from rotting and destroying the wine, but too much can be a bad thing for labels. An average wine storage cabinet should have a humidity level between 60% and 75%. If you have a very dry climate or your house is heated and cooled by central air, it might be a good idea to place a saucer of water in your wine storage area. The water with put a little humidity in the air and should be a great help in preserving the wine. The other problem with humidity, though, is that too much can ruin wine labels. If the humidity runs in excess of 80%, mold could start growing on wine labels and your identification of the wine, as well as the value, is lost. One good suggestion for preventing mold growth is to wrap your long-term bottles in saran wrap. This effectively keeps out most mold and doesn't have any unpleasant odors, such as shellacking or applying hair spray as a sealant would cause.
Temperature and light are your two biggest concerns when building a wine cellar. Be sure to check the temperature of any area where you might consider building your wine cellar, making certain that the temperature of the to-be wine storage area does not vary outside of 55 - 58 degrees. If you want to store your wine in a temperature controlled unit, you could easily turn a conventional refrigerator into a wine storage unit by modifying the thermostat or using temperature control units made for home beer brewers. Temperature control units can be found online or through your local hardware store or beer brewing supply shop. No matter what, as little light as possible should reach the wine bottles; wine is happiest in the dark.