From cavernous basements to artful, high-tech centrepieces, wine cellars have come a long way.
The earliest archaeological evidence of wine production was found in Georgia (circa 6000 BC) and Iran (circa 5000 BC), so it should come as no surprise that wine cellars have also existed for thousands of years. In fact, just two years ago, archaeologists uncovered what is believed to be the world’s oldest wine cellar. Dating from 1700 BC and containing 40 broken jars, the mud-brick walled storage room was found during the excavation of an ancient palace’s banquet hall in present-day Israel.
Since that time, wine cellaring has become a science that aficionados have perfected on multiple levels. Advances in technology and design have raised the practice into an art, and as a result, wine collections are no longer exclusively subterranean; they are increasingly taking centre stage as main-floor attractions.
“It’s on-trend right now to display wines in different ways than we have ever seen,” says Ginger Martin of Sotheby’s International Realty – Wine Country, which serves California’s Sonoma and Napa counties. “Instead of going down into a dark room and pulling out a bottle, people are displaying their wines in beautiful ways,” adds Martin.
An excellent illustration of Martin’s observation is Napa Valley’s Whitehall Estate, one of the most talked-about wine-country properties currently under construction. One of its striking features is an all-glass wine room reimagined as a dramatic floating sculpture containing the owner’s bottle collection. “You can literally see through it, past the bottles, and out the window to the surrounding grapevines,” Martin says. “It is an artistic statement.” As is clear in Whitehall as in many other estates, wine rooms are now designed to combine high-tech and high style to create the ideal environment in which to easily access and savour one’s liquid assets. Once reserved for true oenophiles, cellars have come to be an “essential” amenity today, says sommelier and wine expert Paul Koder of WineTrend, a wine-consulting firm based in Richmond, Virginia. As Koder notes, luxury homeowners are increasingly integrating them into their entertainment and recreation specifications. Sometimes built at a cost topping six figures, these very personalised wine cellars are often less fussy and more free-flowing than those of the past.
They are a lot more fun too, frequently featuring fantastical plays of lights and electronic sommeliers that make short work of inventory management. International projects take Koder to high-growth markets like China, Thailand and Singapore, where he also finds that “when people display their wine collections to guests in a unique and original style, it gives them a sense of pride and empowerment.” These latest developments in a long history of technological, design and taste changes remind us that wine cellaring has come a considerable way since ancient times.
New York-based writer Iyna Bort Caruso has contributed to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journaland Newsday, among others.
St. Helena California
US$38,000,000 Property ID: 9ZPZ4E | sir.com Sotheby’s International Realty – Wine Country Brokerage Ginger Martin +1 415 516 3939 Gregg Lynn +1 415 901 1780
This exquisite 17,533-square-foot post-and-beam home is located on 640 acres overlooking Canyon Ferry Lake in central Montana. Its climate-controlled wine cellar accommodates more than 1,250 bottles and includes seating for twelve.
$28,000,000 Property ID: 6Z9Y32 | sir.com Big Sky Sotheby’s International Realty Laura Sacchi +1 406 570 9651 Tory Cyr +1 406 577 6337
The Peak Hong Kong
This magnificent residence in the Peak offers floor-to-ceiling windows and stunning south facing views. The modern wine cellar holds more than 200 bottles and can be accessed directly through the home theatre providing the perfect setting for entertaining.
HK$220,000,000 Property ID: 3GMKH6 | hongkongsothebysrealty.com Hong Kong Sotheby’s International Realty +852 3108 2108
The five acres on which this masterpiece home is located include 1,100 feet of lake frontage with a private cove and dock. The ultimate home for entertaining, the residence features a wine-tasting cellar, a custom bar and a home theatre.