When somebody brags about his wine cellar, do you picture a cold, damp, cobwebby underground space that’s so dark you can barely spy bottles by the light of your smartphone? If you answered yes—it’s time to get with it.
Today’s versions go way beyond basic wine storage. They’re now adult playrooms, man caves, personal style statements, and part of the living environment, like splashy paintings on dining room walls.
New-wave cellars often feature tasting tables, comfy chairs, lighting worthy of an art gallery, and space age technology. They even look good without any wine in them.
Take the nearly finished wine wall in the New York apartment of New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony. It’s fronted by a series of glass doors, so the trophy bottles inside won’t be missed. They especially pop with the help of strategic back lighting to underscore how prized they are.
There are no figures on how many people today are storing wine collections, but global real estate company Knight Frank’s current Wealth Report reveals that wine investment by ultra-high-net-worth individuals is up 241 percent in the past 10 years. (An ultra-high-net-worth individual, or UHNWI, is a person with investable assets of more than $30 million.) Drinking the stuff, of course, is an increasingly popular passion.
“For luxury homes around the world, a wine cellar is now a given, an essential amenity like a pool, home gym, or screening room,” says Zachary Wright, executive director of Christies International Real Estate for Western North America & Asia.
Out of the Cellar
The biggest trend is that cellars have moved up from basements into the main living level, often between kitchen and dining room, explained Evan Goldenberg of Design Build Consultants, whose clients have included many New York chief executive officers.
Joseph Kline, a former financial trader turned designer who co-owns Joseph & Curtis Custom Wine Cellars, points out “the visual is now almost as important as the wine is.” Their clients (which include Anthony and musician Kevin Jonas) want cellars to match the style of their furnishings, so many opt for a steel-and-glass contemporary look. Though traditional wooden racks made from black walnut and mahogany are still popular, Kline has also hunted down such exotic woods as jarrah and African wenge.
The challenge is how to square all this visibility with the requirements of storing fine wine: keeping bottles at a constant temperature of about 55 degrees, with humidity of 60 percent to 70 percent, and away from sunlight (ultraviolet rays prematurely age wine) on racks that keep the bottles horizontal, so corks don’t dry out and let air in.
State of the Art
“New technology has been key,” says Jim Cash of Revel Custom Wine Cellars in Lansing, Mich. Refrigeration is more efficient, for one thing. Backup systems monitor conditions through electronic sensors that trip alarms, sending texts to the owner if the temperature rises or falls dramatically.