WINE can mark you out as a person of breeding and taste as well as a brand-conscious big spender. Louis Vuitton recognised this back in 1972 when the firm merged with Moet Hennessy to form LVMH. The luxury brand conglomerate is still snapping up top vineyards.
Along silver, art and gold; wine is one of the four assets that economist Joe Roseman called SWAG and investing in fine wine is on the rise; a 1985 bottle of Burgundy was valued at £9,900 in 2014 -that price has now doubled.
It follows that whoever owns a top Grand Cru will want to look after it rather carefully. “People will spend £100,000s on a wine room, but sometimes the wine collection is worth tenfold the cost of installing one,” says Jonathan Hewlett, head of Savills London, who has noticed the increasing interest in wine cellars among prime clients.Safe storage being essential, bespoke temperature and humidity-controlled wine nurseries have replaced the dusty damp cellars lit by a row of bare lightbulbs of the past.
“In Knightsbridge, we’ve noticed that many buyers take great pride in emphasising their private wine collections during dinner parties,” says Charles Oliver, of Knight Frank. “Wine storage has therefore become both a decorative and practical feature for many London homes, especially within refurbished and new build properties.”
Cellar Maison, specialising in bespoke cellars as well as wine walls and pods, offer a range of options. In one London home, Cellar Maison worked with the client to ensure his collection of 500 bottles of wine would not go unnoticed. The wine room – part of a new basement conversion – was made from solid dark oak, enclosed in frameless glass, and incorporating climate control. Cellar Maison project managed the entire construction, co-ordinating timberwork, glass partitions and air conditioning.
Kent-based kitchen specialists Chamber Furniture are also seeing demand for cellars. Recently they fitted a walnut and stone wine tasting room seamlessly into a 300 year old home.
“Wine cellars are an impressive feature in a prime London home”, says Hewlett. “They’re certainly on the increase and developers are responding to the growing requirement for wine rooms by ensuring they sit alongside spa treatment rooms and cinema rooms; feature spaces that all come hand in hand for buyers. Recently we have seen some outstanding and these wine rooms can also be incredible show pieces that are used for socialising and entertainment.”
However not many developers of large-scale new build projects can afford bespoke wine rooms – they can occupy upwards of 70 sq ft. Where space is limited, the solution is often a wine wall or curved glass pod. Here wines can be artistically displayed, backlit and suspended in gleaming glass cases, velvety, elegant, silky or flamboyant pupae waiting to be hatched and enjoyed at the next dinner party.
Chamber Furniture, Smallbone and Cellar Maison all now offer a wide range of enticing and beautiful bespoke walls and pods.
Not every culture drinks wine and therefore some buyers prefer to use the space for a walk-in dressing room or cinema, The wine wall – which tends to be a glass fronted shallow room – has however become a lot more popular. It can take a multitude of shapes and the best ones make a feature of the wine and are skilfully lit.