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Aging Gracefully with Wine Cellar Refrigeration Systems

So you've been inspired to build a wine display or cellar, but should you climate control the space? If so, what types of systems are available and how do you choose the right one? Read on to have some of these common questions answered.


It Depends...

Think about your local liquor store. Not only are the majority of the wines sitting out in the open, they're also often standing upright which isn't how we recommend wine be stored (laying down so that wine stays in contact with the cork).

So what gives? 

Time. These businesses turn over their stock frequently so those bottles aren't sitting there for long. If your wine collection won't last long and you have regular turnover it is less important to keep in in a climate-controlled environment.

Have a large collection or bottles will be sticking around for more than a few months? Climate-controlling your storage space is highly-advisable so that the wine develops as the producer intended. Avoid disappointment when you finally open a special bottle; the investment in climate-control will be worth it.



The worst thing when it comes to wine storage is temperature fluctuations. These cause corks to expand and contract and contributes to oxidization of wine which over time, turns your wine into vinegar.

Too much heat (anything over 70°F) can cause wine to taste unpleasantly jammy and sour. Think about the temperature of your home, even if you have air conditioning - is it below 70°F? Temperatures over 80°F can literally start to cook the wine and damage the seal, also contributing to oxidization.

Sunlight is especially problematic as not only can the wine become "light-struck" when chemical compounds are rearranged, creating sulphur, but the light hitting the glass bottle creates a magnifying effect and amplifies heat.

Humidity is also a concern for long-term wine storage. If the air is too dry, the corks will dry out, contract and contribute to oxidization of wine. If the air is too humid, mold many develop easily on your corks and within the storage environment.


Glass wine cellars are beautiful and comprise a large quantity of the wine storage projects we work on today. You can successfully cool a glass wine cellar, but it's going to be less efficient than a cellar with properly insulated walls. Wine cellar refrigeration equipment needs to be sized up to compensate for the thermal loss.

Things to consider:

Single pane, frameless glass, regardless of the thickness of the pane has an R-value of 0, meaning it offers zero insulation. Every effort should be made to minimize gaps around the door(s) and these minimal gaps should then be addressed with weather stripping.

Dual pane, framed glass with a 1/2" air pocket between the panes is more efficient and doors can be fully-sealing and latching which contributes positively to temperature control.

To give you an idea of the thermal loads for a wine cellar with single or dual pane glass construction and how this compares to a cellar with 2 x 4 or 2 x 6 construction with a minimum R-14 insulation:

Single pane glass = Approx. 7 times the thermal load 

Dual pane glass = Approx. 3.5 times the thermal load 

Work with us to determine the specific thermal load of your space. Request a thermal load calculation.


Contact us to review your project. We provide complementary wine cellar refrigeration consultations to help you choose the right system. To get the most out of your consultation, we'll need to know:

1) The dimensions of your wine room or cellar space.

2) How each wall and the floor/ceiling is constructed. Our biggest concern will be glass and if that glass is single or dual pane. It would also be helpful to know if you have 2 x 4 or 2 x 6 framing and the anticipated R-value of each wall. Don't worry if you're not sure, we can help you figure that out and provide suggestions for proper insulation and vapour barrier.

3) Plans that demonstrate the rooms or spaces around the wine room (so we can consider ducting or refrigerant piping runs).

After your consultation session, your Blue Grouse consultant will conduct a thermal load calculation to determine the appropriate cooling capacity for your space and then match that up to specific cooling systems, factoring in the configuration of your space, availability for venting, ducting, etc*.

*Note that although Blue Grouse consultants are well versed in system types and installation, we always recommend reviewing installation specifics with your on-site technician who will be putting the equipment in (as they may have additional insight regarding space available for ducting, difficulty of utilities rough-ins etc. We consider this to be a team effort!)