Here's the right way to control the climate of your wine cellar.

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Q: Why do I need my wine cellar to be climate-controlled, and how do I go about doing it the right way?

A: Wine cellar designs are limitless and can be found anywhere from small loft studios to expansive estates. Nevertheless, to properly protect your wine, the cellar needs to be at the correct temperature and humidity.

Fine wine is very sensitive and is best preserved within a very narrow margin of temperature and humidity. Straying outside the boundaries may influence the aging process of your treasured wine collection. If the room is too warm, the wine will age too quickly and can harm its characteristics and flavor. A cellar that is too cool may slow down the aging process and can also have harmful effects to the flavor.

The goal is to maintain a room temperature of 55 degrees with a variable of approximately 3 degrees above or below. Fine wine needs stability, so proper climate control is essential.

Having somewhat high humidity is good for a wine cellar. This helps to prevent the corks from drying out. The ideal relative humidity is a range of 45–65 percent. When humidity is too high, you risk damaging your wine labels and developing mold in the corks and wine cellar.

When you’ve made the decision to build your dream cellar, it is essential that the room meet specific requirements to protect your wine. Here are some essentials to consider.

Wine cooling systems

It’s important to have the correct size and style of wine-cooling system for your room layout. The cellar configuration will determine what cooling system is best for your collection. When deciding on the proper climate-controlled equipment, it is best to consult with a professional because every wine cellar is different. Factors such as where in the house the cellar is located, whether there are glass windows, and whether the surrounding space that might cause extra heat (such as outdoor walls or mechanical rooms) will affect the size of the cooling system required.

There are several types of units available, including through-the-wall systems, ducted split systems and ductless split systems. And remember, the equipment used in your friend’s wine cellar might not be right for your cellar.

Custom wine racking

There are many types of wine racking and storage options available for your wine collection. A wine cellar specialist will provide computer-assisted design drawings of racking systems based on bottle-capacity goals and room-size limitations.

Wood racking used to account for a majority of available designs. However, with more and more wine cellars moving to main-floor living areas, many installations consist of metal racking with large glass windows and a heavy use of LED lighting. There are endless ways to create a beautiful wine cellar that fits within the budget and décor goals of each client.

Designing the wine cellar of your dreams can be an exciting adventure. Work with a professional wine cellar consultant who can help you select the right cooling and racking designs for your wine collection. Then sit back, relax and open up a bottle of wine from your new custom cellar.

Doug Smith is the president and chief designer of Rhino Wine Cellars & Cooling Systems and a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBAKS’s nearly 3,000 members, write to