Passive Cellars

Certainly among the most desirable of storage options, the stark reality is that many collectors cannot afford, or are unwilling to invest in a dedicated passive underground cellar. Underground cellars are impractical in many areas due to the water table, excavation costs, or other urban considerations.

To maximize the passive cooling capacity of the surrounding earth, an ideal passive cellar must be built well below the eight foot depth normally associated with a residential basement. The benefit is a often a naturally humid cellar, with constant of near constant year-round temperature of 55-60 degrees.

Historically the passive cellar has become the romantic ideal of the wine connoisseur. Built within the sub-foundations of castles, chateaux, and great estates, nestled among alcoves of stone and brick arches, are legions of wine covered by dust and cobwebs, some untouched for centuries.  Visit Chateau Montrose in the Medoc, and ask to visit their subterranean cellar, where you can see what I am talking about.

Modern variants of the passive cellar do exist, with stone, brick, tile, and exotic wood racking, though “active” cellars with cooling systems are far more the norm. Still many producers and some commercial storage facilities, have tunneled into hillsides to achieve a passive capability. 

An interesting variant on the passive cellar had been developed and marketed by Spiral Cellars, Ltd in the United Kingdom. A circular, concrete, modular passive cellar is dug directly underneath your home, with access though a “trap door” in your floor. 12,500 collectors have had the system installed in England and France.