We talk to Neil Smallman of Signature Cellars about his range of underground cellars, the best temperatures for bottle storage and what you might not know about wine
CH: What are the advantages of an underground wine cellar?
One of the main advantages of an underground cellar is that stored wine will benefit from the earth’s surrounding thermomass. What wine really needs is a cool, dark and stable environment and when it comes to stability insulation is key. Underground cellars provides the best form of insulation and once you get one metre below ground there is very little temperature change from summer to winter.
Because it’s underground, wine is also protected from the sun’s radiant heat, ensuring it’s a lot cooler. If you have wine in the cupboard, under the stairs or over the fridge, you can get big fluctuations in temperature. For example, you can get down to maybe 4 to 6 degrees Celsius at night in winter and up to thirty or forty degrees Celsius in summer during the daytime and you don’t want that.
CH: What is the ideal temperature for wine?
Wine needs a temperature from 12 to 20 degrees Celsius, as long as it’s stable. You don’t want it to go from 12 to 20 degrees over the course of a day or two, which it could do if it’s in the garage or under the stairs. Wine is happiest if it’s at 12 degree or 20 degrees as long as it stays within 1 or 2 degrees of that range.
Wine is a living product. It can handle those natural conditions and underground wine cellars ensure these conditions.
CH: What considerations should people bear in mind when choosing a wine cellar?
The main factors are budget, aesthetics and space.
The Spiral Cellar we offer is particular good for people where space is an issue, such as high-density, inner city suburbs where there are lots of terraced housing. You don’t want to necessarily give up a bedroom for a living area to wine storage and if you can go underground it doesn’t take up any footprint from a development perspective. With a Spiral Cellar you can create storage for up to 1800 bottles in an inner city house.
Where space isn’t a premium, people might want a cellar they can walk into and have wine tastings with their guests. I have had clients who have a more space than they need and are more than happy to turn a spare room into a wine cellar. Actually we’re currently involved in a project where we’re converting a covered terrace into a wine storage area. That involves insulating walls, introducing climate control, lighting, racking, sometimes flooring and wall finishes.
Above ground wine cellars also come in lower than Spiral Cellars. For some people who have got the space but not the budget above ground cellars are more suited.
CH: Are there any must-have accessories to go with an underground wine cellar?
If someone wants the White Cellar, they’re best showcased with a glass door. Once you’ve got a glass door, the LED lighting is the most attractive lighting. Combined with stair treads, they really enhance the aesthetic of the cellar.
However, when it comes to underground wine cellars, there are two types of customers. There is the customer who wants the “hidden treasure”, which involves a recess trapdoor so it looks like the floor that a customer can throw a carpet over if they want.
Then there is the other customer, the one who wants to showcase their wine cellars. This might involve a white cellar with glass door and LED lighting, located in their living or entertaining room, or entrance hall.
We’re also seeing more people going for the slight cheaper, cost-effective, original cellar with glass trapdoor, which can look great in a modern home where you might have polished concrete floor, or for someone looking for that more edgy, industrial, contemporary look. To accommodate those customers we’ve brought in new accessories, such as the LED spot lighting, which is specifically for the original cellars, which gives you that LED look under the glass for customers who wants the original cellar.