How to build a wine cellar at home

By Halliday Wine Companion

8 Mar, 2023

We speak to three experts about what to consider when building a home cellar.

Building a Wine Cellar at Home

Are you thinking about building a wine cellar at home? Do you have prized pinot noir, shiraz, and cabernet sauvignon that needs to be stored for later in life?

We know it can be difficult knowing where to begin, and a project this size requires plenty of research and planning before you dig.

Below, we speak to three architects and designers about what to consider before building a home cellar.

Barrel room at a winery

What you need to know about traditional underground wine cellars

Stuart Holmes, architect at Matt Gibson

H. What is the minimum cost to build a traditional underground cellar?

SH. We would normally suggest a figure of $2000 per square metre for an unfinished basement, but it depends on the scale, complexity and methodology. Typically, the rate would be higher for a smaller basement. Fit-out costs are additional.

H. What other factors do you need to consider when building an underground cellar?

SH. In general, drainage, ventilation and flooding. The last one is problematic…undermining existing footings is a big issue if you are trying to excavate and build under your house.

H. If you don’t have a ready-made space for an underground cellar, such as a basement, how can you add one to your home?

SH. There are some great prefab drop-in cellars (a concrete pit of sorts, with four walls, a floor and a roof, which can be dropped into an excavated space alongside your home) – perhaps logistically it's easier to drop one in the backyard if you're unable to include this feature in your initial architectural works.

A glass of red wine being poured

Custom fit-outs for a home cellar

Jason Blake, maker at I Am Not Mason
H. Do you have any smart tips for fitting out a home cellar?
JB. Firstly, you need to decide on the materials, be it timber, steel or terracotta. I haven’t used terracotta myself, but my understanding is that it’s a cheap solution to use terracotta pots (or terracotta drainage pipes) stacked on top of each other to hold your wines. It all comes down to your budget and how far you want to take it.
H. What kind of price range are people looking at for a custom fit-out?
JB. The price can vary a lot. We’ve done work between $5000 and $15,000 and that’s changed according to the size, space and materials used.
H. You’ve fitted out a few wine bars and restaurants. What have those been like?
JB. The first one was all steel, which was fantastic – more of an industrial look. Some people are opposed to steel though, because there is the possibility it could chip your bottles. Another was timber, which is a simple and cost-effective choice.

Empty bottles of wine in a wine rack

How to build a home wine cellar on a budget

Jane McNeill, project architect at Luigi Rosselli
H. What is the most cost-effective way to build a home cellar?
JM. Choose the coolest part of the house in order to reduce the need for substantial and expensive cooling systems, and use a proprietary racking system rather than opting for custom-made joinery. In saying that, custom joinery would provide a more attractive solution and maximise the storage capacity of your cellar.
H. How much would it cost to build a 500-bottle cellar?
JM. The cost involved in building any kind of wine cellar can vary greatly – it can depend on whether you're simply inserting storage into an existing room or excavating under your house to build the whole thing from scratch. It also depends on whether you're after a basic storage space or somewhere to linger, taste wine and socialise. As much of our work is in high-end residential and hospitality projects, our cellars tend to have purpose-built joinery and often include a tasting table.
H. When building a house, where is the best place to locate a cellar?
JM. The best locations are either in the coolest part of the house or underground. Another alternative is to store most of your wine collection in this way and insert a small wine fridge for those special bottles.

Image credit: Wine Australia.