Walk into a luxury home these days and it’s probably not the bespoke kitchen taking centre stage, but the wine collection. No longer something to hide in the basement, wine has become far more than an object to simply consume or collect – for many people, it’s calling out to be showcased. They want wine walls that transmute bottles into an art installation, walk-in pods that provide a party space for tastings, or rooms that open up like secret chambers behind hidden doors.
Richard Miller, of Halstock – an English cabinetmaker whose wine cellars range from £40,000 to £150,000 – describes them as ‘destination rooms’, in which the client’s every whim can be accommodated. ‘Wine lends itself to display. If the client enjoys collecting double magnums or half-bottles, or has a “vertical” of a particular château, we can build the perfect space for them,’ he says. ‘We can even create a map of their favourite wine region in marquetry.’
The latest solutions offer the essential elements of climate control and humidity regulation, but packaged so stylishly that the space’s glass walls or bespoke cabinetry, specialist colour-changing back lighting, wireless inventory systems and finger- recognition entry turn a storage area into a talking point and the social hub of the house. Many rooms cater to the full tasting experience – sofas and spitting bowl included.
‘Wine and food culture in Britain is rapidly evolving. Within the next decade, a climate- controlled wine-storage room or wall will be as common in a prime residence as a well-appointed kitchen or a home cinema,’ says Andrew Speer, MD of Cellar Maison, which designs bespoke wine walls, pods and cellars. Its clients typically spend from £40,000 to £250,000, ‘and may have a few thousand bottles in bond and another 500 to 2,000 at home for personal enjoyment,’ says Speer, from New Zealand’s wine-growing Marlborough region, whose collaboration with master of wine Marina Gayan includes profiling clients’ palates to help them build their fine-wine collection. ‘Many wine lovers and investors who’ve previously kept their collection in bonded storage now want a bespoke wine cellar. They’ll bring home mature, “ready-to-drink” bottles and create a unique environment there to allow them to appreciate their collection,’ says Speer.
While some like to put their wine rooms on show – wine walls are also known as wine ‘galleries’, which speaks volumes about an owner’s desire to have their collection viewed and admired – others like the element of surprise, choosing instead to ‘hide’ their opulent den. Furniture maker David Linley’s £100,000 wine room, in bespoke bronze-handled walnut, is concealed behind tall fumed-eucalyptus doors. Property developer Banda recently hid a huge wine room – all dramatically lit dark wood and brass details – behind the bookcases of a London mansion.
Bond-like features such as secret sliding or electric doors are popular among the clients of Leo Vaughan Williams of VW Art + Design.
‘These rooms are often the man’s domain, with collections of sporting or entertainment memorabilia,’ says Vaughan Williams, who is currently designing a wine emporium for a 3,000sq m new home in Suffolk that will be accessed through 19th-century Spanish gilt gates. It will have a glass-fronted humidor in Indian rosewood and a tasting bar inlaid with nickel and shagreen panels. As a former art advisor at Christie’s, he brings an extra level of expertise to such projects. ‘Wine rooms will occasionally contain art that I’ve sourced and sometimes wine bought as an investment, to be displayed but never drunk,’ he says. ‘Some clients are very knowledgeable about wine – some even own vineyards – but usually the room will be the star of the show.’
Wine walls provide a feature display without consuming precious space – but you could also dig down and install a cellar that winds underground like a corkscrew, with your collection displayed on all sides. Sussex- based Spiral Cellars has been building them for 35 years. Priced from £20,000, they are designed to hold up to 1,780 bottles.
If space is a real issue, you may prefer one item of furniture that doubles up as a display case. Smallbone of Devizes, which has clients as far afield as Dubai and Manhattan, offers a Wine Wall cabinet that costs from £45,000 and comes with timber-veneer, leather or metal panelling and gold-plated racks.
Never mind letting your wine breathe – the latest designer cellars are about allowing your finest vintages to shout out and be seen.
Zoe Dare Hall writes for The Sunday Times, The Daily Telegraph and the Financial Times