In a recent trip to Sicily we were shown what the Italians call a "Cantina". It is what they stored their fruits, vegetables, meats, olive oil and wine in to preserve it from the elements. In Sicily the elements can include prolonged periods where the temperature exceeds 40 degrees Celsius (100 degrees F). They used their Cantinas long before the harnessing of electricity for making refrigeration an option to preserve their seasonal food supply.
A Cantina is remarkably simple in its wine cellar design. It is a cave dug into the granite or marble mountain that is the foundation of the island and they put a steel gate across the front of it. This accomplishes the 3 functions of a good wine cellar. First it keeps the things stored inside cool and the temperature remains stable through the seasons. Second it holds moisture. The south of Europe is very dry so water preservation is a core value there. The third function is that air must circulate. This keeps mold from growing and keeps perishables from going bad.
A wine cellar then should then emulate the original wine cellar if you are pure to the concept or if you are more modern it should accomplish the 3 function of the wine cellars of old. I returned from that trip and when we bought our home a major plus was that it had an 18ft by 10 ft room in the basement that was 3 sides cement and the floor was cement.
We just closed in the ceiling and took everything to white to start.
For the cement walls there is this cool Behr Paint product that has sand in it. You apply it and then paint over it with whatever color you want. We were building a wine cellar so we went with 3 different wine colors from the same color bare...light for the 3 walls, dark for the highlight wall and medium for the floor.
We put in some wine cellar racks and a rustic work table.
There was still half of the room for other storage such as all of the tools for making wine from scratch.
Many if not most homes have some sort of basement that is very similar to what we have here. It may not be as big but you too can build a wine cellar that will accomplish the 3 functions of a good wine cellar. If you run out of room there are options. You can use wine making techniques that are not as demanding as our making wine from scratch technique. You can make wine from juice
in large volumes or smaller volumes. There are scratch wine making machines that are designed to be used in apartments or small houses and take much less room to store than our equipment.
If you are just starting out, you can make wine from kits. If you want to use your cellar for making wine and letting it mature in demijohns and carboys but do not have room for racks, wine coolers are becoming a very popular product. They can be set to 45 to 60 degrees which is perfect for keeping your wine while it ages in the bottle. You can put the cooler in any room that is suitable and many are made to match kitchen or bar cabinets so that you perfectly kept wine is at your fingertips when you are entertaining.
I see so many homes including the highest end homes where the designer of a wine cellar has no understanding of the functionality of the cellar in regards to the care of wine. This page is about helping you understand how to use a wine cellar to make, store and enjoy your wine. Feel free to ask us questions about wine cellars and we will post the answers on line. Then take a look at your house and figure out how to manage your wine so that you keep it properly for the most enjoyment from you wine hobby.
If you have any questions please contact the Wine Vintner
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