A few months ago, I went to a Pinot Noir tasting and met a few budding wine collectors. They’d only been collecting wine for a handful of years, and they were loving every second of it–that is, until we started talking about wine storage. One of the collectors told the group that he’d just finished building his home wine cellar, and so far, he wasn’t happy with the results. “You should have seen my electric bill this month!” he said. “That thing is a power guzzler.” He always knew wine cellars needed to stay cool, but he didn’t realize just how much energy this would take, or how this was impacting the environment.
Owning a wine cellar can dramatically increase your carbon footprint. From the cooling unit pumping pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as it cools your bottles, to the piles of styrofoam padding that will eventually end up in a landfill, wine collecting isn’t always the greenest hobby. However, this doesn’t have to be the case; environmentally-friendly wine storage exists, and with a few simple fixes, you can collect as many bottles as you’d like while protecting the environment and keeping your energy bills down.
Find Out Whether Your Home Is Truly Green
Unfortunately for collectors living in hot climates, a home cellar will likely never be an environmentally-friendly wine storage option. That’s because you need to keep your wine anywhere between 45 and 55 degrees year round, with little to no fluctuation in temperature. Let’s say you build a wine cellar in a 10×10 foot room, with 10-foot-high ceilings. If the outside temperatures reach 70 degrees, you’ll use about 1,296,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units) every month to keep your cellar cool. That translates into more than 120 pounds of carbon dioxide every month, even if you use a “greener” fuel like natural gas. Alternatively, if you live in a climate that averages 60 degrees, you’ll use less than half the fuel, emitting fewer than 60 pounds of carbon dioxide every month.
If your average yearly temperature stays between 45 and 55 degrees, your wine cellar won’t be too hard on the environment, or your wallet, but if your city’s average temperatures are significantly higher or lower, try professional storage instead. Storing wine with professionals is like carpooling: you use less fuel when you share space with others. Wine storage warehouses know how to make the most out of every inch of space available, and most importantly, the high-quality ones are based in cities with ideal temperature ranges. Vinfolio’s San Francisco office stays relatively cool all year, which means using less fuel to keep the bottles in that perfect Goldilocks range.
Downsize Your Space
What if you do live in an ideal climate? You still have some work to do to make sure your home cellar is as green as possible. First, take a close look at how much space you truly need. Can you downsize? The smaller your cellar is, the less fuel it will take to stay cool, and the less carbon dioxide it will produce. As much as I love the idea of putting a table and chairs inside a home cellar for tastings, consider building a home cellar that only stores wine, with as little excess room as possible. Keep chairs and other knick-knacks in another room. Use this calculator to find out how much space you need for your collection.
The only exception to the downsize rule is if your home happens to have a basement that requires no additional cooling. Centuries ago, before refrigeration, chilly castle dungeons and tiny underground cellars would naturally keep wine within a safe temperature range because they were sealed off from the rest of the house or estate. To make the most out of a space like this, I recommend installing an outdoor-grade door to lock-in the internal temperature, coupled with an accurate thermometer to make sure temperatures don’t fluctuate. Since most of us don’t have a built-in, no maintainence wine cave, another environmentally-friendly wine storage option is a small wine cooler.
Use Every Part of the Cork and Barrel
Once you have your temperatures under control, you’ll want to look at environmentally-friendly wine storage shelves, flooring, and lighting. Styrofoam is a great option for protecting your bottles against vibration, but cork is a greener alternative (it’s compostable) that accomplishes the same goal. You can find individual cork containers for your wine bottles, or install cork flooring in your cellar. Cork floors keep the room well-insulated, are easy to clean, and absorb shock.
Lighting in an environmentally-friendly way is an easy fix; all you have to do is replace any incandescent bulbs with low-power LEDs, if you haven’t already. LEDs are also better for wine than incandescents because they produce less heat.
Finally, choose eco-friendly furniture to round out your environmentally-friendly wine storage. Repurposed wood or shelves made from recycled metal use fewer finite resources, making them more sustainable. I personally love furniture made from old wine barrels. These barrels would otherwise be thrown away, yet some companies refurbish them into stylish chairs, tables, or even wine shelves. You don’t have to sacrifice a gorgeous wine cellar to lower your carbon footprint.
Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. Contact us today to get access to the world’s finest wine.