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The cost of a cellar

Or row upon row of fine wine?

For true acolytes of the vine, an in-house wine cellar is a logical step. Maybe you’re a compulsive buyer of “special occasion” bottles. Maybe you’re a dedicated collector set on amassing a thoughtful, well-rounded supply of wine you can show off to house guests. In either case, space is bound to become an issue. 

Plus, if you’re serious about storing or aging your wine in top-notch conditions, a cellar is the way to go. Wine needs a controlled climate for long-term storage: Cooler than room temperature, with consistent humidity and protection from stray sunbeams, in order to prevent the corks from contracting and expanding, ushering in unwanted oxidation. Good luck getting that level of protection in a kitchen cabinet. 

Cellars are big right now. In fact, those shopping for high-end real estate in Vancouver have begun taking them for granted. Jacuzzi? Check. Garbage disposal? Check. Temperature-controlled vino cave? Of course.

For the non-super-rich, however, taking the wine cellar plunge requires some planning. 

Assuming you’ve got a basement, you have a head start. Going subterranean gives you the best protection from light pollution and other environmental troublemakers. Plus, the ambient temperature underground is lower than above, meaning your wine cooling unit will have to do less work.

The wine cooling unit (WCU) is essential. A basement is a benefit, but not an instant cellar. You’ll need this unit to keep the temperature regulated. The WCU will cost you anywhere from 1,000 - 10,000, depending on quality and capacity.

Then there’s the rest: Vapour-protected walls, to keep the room enclosed; an airtight door; bottle racks; and other details, like lighting and flooring. 

That’s a lot to factor in. But if you’re in the early stages of your wine cellar journey, there’s an easy way to chart the cost. A simple rule of thumb: Building a wine cellar will cost about the same as remodeling your kitchen.

There are a lot of ways to remodel your kitchen. You could go with laminate flooring or imported tile. A stainless steel gas range or a budget model from your local appliances outlet. Your kitchen could be large enough to film an episode of Chopped, or just big enough to prepare dinner for your partner and yourself. 

Similarly, your wine cellar will be shaped by your needs. What’s the priority: Function or style? Will you be dipping in occasionally to grab a bottle to go with dinner, or hosting tasting parties for your most distinguished guests? Are you just looking for a place to keep your growing collection of bottles safe and out of sight, or are you preserving an investment worth thousands of dollars?

There are small-scale, DIY options. There are companies, like Vancouver’s Blue Grouse, who will do all the work for you. Research your options, keep your priorities straight, and soon your personal in-house oenophile retreat could be competing with the best the real estate market has to offer. 

Image via Luca Moglia

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