The Colorful History of Wine Cellars

Wine has been an essential part of human history since ancient times – it’s known as the nectar of the gods for a reason! Wine is woven throughout ancient culture, art, and stories. 

Wine has also always been made in large quantities when the seasonal grape harvest allowed and so necessitated storage. For as long as there has been wine, people have been striving to store it properly to prevent spoilage. With modern technology, we’ve taken wine storage from the scientific to the sublime, but the history of wine cellars is fascinating to explore.

Wine Storage Through Time

In 2014, a large trove of earthenware pots containing traces of ancient wine was discovered at Tel Kabri, a Canaanite city in what is now Israel. The city dates back to 1700 BCE, proving this wine storage, next to a banquet hall, was part of palace life in this ancient city. Evidence of wine itself has been found dating back 7000 years in China. 

Ancient Rome

Ancient Romans also incorporated wine into their daily lives and strove to store it properly. They made many attempts such as filling the wine storage room with smoke to remove the oxygen, and building rooms on the north side of buildings to avoid direct sun exposure. Neither was perfect, however, since both were above ground and ambient temperature was warmer than desired for ideal wine storage, between 55 and 58 degrees Fahrenheit.

Medieval Europe

When massive medieval structures were built in Europe, early engineers realized that they needed to excavate and support the towering, heavy building from beneath with stone arches. These early basements proved to be an excellent place to store things, including wine, which benefited from the cool, humid, steady environment a subterranean space offered. 

Wine Storage in Caves

Eventually, the French were excavating or expanding naturally occurring caves to take advantage of this ideal environment for wine storage. The modern era of wine storage began to take shape. 

Wine in the New World

Though the United States has had its ups and downs concerning wine and alcohol in general, the prohibition being the most glaring, obviously, people have always enjoyed wine on this continent as well. 

People took advantage of the same passively appealing conditions found in Europe’s caves and underground caverns underneath American cities as well. In fact, the Brooklyn Bridge was, for many years, the site of two underground warehouses often rented and utilized for wine storage. Both sides of the span had deep subterranean spaces necessary for the structural integrity of the bridge. City planners rented this ideal wine storage out for years to help offset the cost of building the structure.

Recreating the Ideal Conditions

Wine storage is about creating the right conditions for your wine to age and improve. Passive wine storage takes advantage of the nearly ideal conditions found in caves and spaces deep underground. Wine needs to be stored in a cool environment, between 55 and 58 degrees ideally, and benefits from a steady humidity between 55% – 75%. Temperature fluctuations should be avoided, as should exposure to sunlight. 

Active wine storage seeks to recreate these conditions with climate control, placement within a home or building, and UV filtering if necessary. Wine is alive, and it breathes through its cork. Temperature fluctuations accelerate the aging process by causing more exchange through the cork. Humidity also affects the exchange of gasses between the bottle and the environment. 

Wine Cellars in the Modern Home

With the power to create the right conditions for wine storage through climate control and custom-built racks and shelving, wine cellars in the home have become a way for wine lovers to protect their wine investment and create a place to showcase and celebrate their love of wine. 

With the help of experts, a home wine cellar can reflect a wine lover’s style while creating conditions for wine aging and enjoyment that is the hallmark of any wine lover’s life. Modern home wine cellars offer endlessly creative options for wine storage. 

An unfinished basement can be completely transformed into the cave on a French Chateau, a place to escape your life and retreat to a wine lover’s dream. Or, if you’re working with an already finished house, but you’ve recently begun collecting wine, creative wine storage can be built seamlessly into an existing space under the stairs, in a pantry, or by creating a glassed-in wall in your entertainment space. The possibilities are endless.

Trust the Experts

Harkraft has become the largest locally owned provider of wine cellar design and installation services in the Twin Cities. We can help you sort through the options and see the possibilities. Benefit from our experience by working with an expert. Contact us today to talk about home wine cellars, from design to installation.