I am really lucky to have the space for my own cellar. Nearly 3 years ago we had some alterations to our home which allowed my dream to come true.
As you can see from the picture below we had a dead space at the back of our garage which was overgrown with a largely unsafe Victorian wall. The wall needed to be rebuilt so I costed an extra couple of feet in height for the wall and a slate roof and it was a little more but affordable.
We had a great team of builders and they got to work with some reconditioned local bricks.
A day later it looked like this
Add a stout pine door, a lock and a great old key
and here is the finished cellar
You will see I have a gravel floor. I borrowed this idea from a fantastic bar in Loheac, Brittany. You walk in to The Cafe Du Village and they throw you a large key, after walking down some stairs, it opens their cellar door from which you are able to choose a bottle from their rather decent collection.
If you a car fan Loheac is a place which is worth a visit. Michel Hommell has amassed a huge collection of cars and there is also a racing circuit which hosts regular fixtures.
Anyway, I have digressed, the gravel serves two purposes, it helps to regulate the humidity and also acts as soft landing for any dropped bottles which is a fairly frequent occurance with me.
Once you have the space you have to tackle the two most important factors which can make or break you cellar, temperature and the aforementioned humidity.
Most experts will tell you that wine should be stored at an optimium temperature of 12 degrees C. Wine will mature quicker if the temperature is higher and more slowly if it is cooler than that. Rapid fluctuations in temperature are your worst enemy.
The solution is to buy a cellar cooling device which controls the temperature within acceptable levels. Having investigated this option I have ruled it out as a device begins at £1500 for an entry level one. I am also uncomfortable with the environmental impact of such a device artificially keeping a room cool.
For 10 months of the year the temperature of the room is acceptable to me. It is north facing and is insulated well so even on the odd day the temperature outside is 30 C it rarely rises above 19 C inside the cellar. Robert Parker is fairly comfortable with wine stored at this temperature for short periods.
A friend of mine had read that a Dutch University Professor had tested some decent wines by leaving one at the right temperature, another in his car and even one in the airing cupboard and this didn’t seem to affect the wine to any degree at all.
Humidity seems almost a higher risk. The experts tell us that wine should be stored at 60% relative humidity. Below that the corks may dry out and shrink, above that, they are susceptible to mold.
Again I have tried to come up with a pragmatic solution. You could buy a humidifier but these need filling and refilling all the time so my more simple solution is that during dry periods I get the watering can out and give the gravel a dousing and this does seem to work.
3 years on I am happy that the storage is working.
Next time, Reisling, the king of white grapes