By Jost Lunstroth
The needs and desires of someone seeking to store their valued wine collection at a self-storage facility are very different from those of someone looking for traditional self-storage space. Wine collectors can be young or old, wealthy or struggling to pay their bills, or own hundreds and hundreds of cases or just a few more than they can properly store at home. Even with all these differences, wine connoisseurs share an invisible bond: a love of wine and the awareness that it must be properly stored.
Wine collectors want the same basic services as the self-storage customer—easy access, clean and safe facilities, and reasonable prices. But they also want comfort, the comfort that comes from knowing their precious collection is protected from thieves and fluctuating temperatures. They get this comfort from knowing the facility operator has correctly completed the technical aspects of the wine-storage area, and emergency operating plans and security are in place. I’m not talking about a fancy door or a painting of Tuscany on the wall. Successful wine storage begins with the right design.
The technical aspect of wine storage is pretty straightforward but not trivial to properly execute. The most critical component is maintaining the correct climate, including temperature and humidity. The generally accepted climate for proper wine storage is 55 degrees and around 60 percent relative humidity. The difficulty of maintaining this climate can vary from one region to another—what works in a cold region like Michigan might not work in hot and dry Arizona or hot and humid Louisiana—but the core challenges are the same.
One challenge is selecting and installing refrigeration equipment that can maintain the desired climate. Another is building a space that can separate the two climates—that of the wine-storage area and then the surrounding areas.
Traditional refrigeration may not always be the best equipment to use for one major reason: Standard refrigeration equipment usually removes humidity as part of the cooling process, so you run the risk of having a space with the correct temperature but low humidity. A humidifier may be required to add humidity back into the space.
Refrigeration equipment designed specifically for wine storage is available, and most wine-storage builders recommend it. It may cost more up front, but it will save you time and headaches in the long run. This equipment is designed to cool the space in a way that doesn’t remove humidity.