Is wine storage in your home renovation budget?
By Hank Zona
Come on over for a glass of wine. It’s an invitation we hear more and more often in our vernacular. Small wonder—the United States is now the largest overall consumer of wine in the world, and here in New Jersey, wine drinking is well ahead of national trends. We rank comfortably in the top ten among states in total and per capita wine consumption and, not coincidentally, we are third in median household income. This is all more clearly reflected inside our homes, where the new “space race” is all about finding the safest, smartest, most convenient way to house our growing wine collections.
Collectors have always sought to have showcase wine rooms and storage areas for bottles numbering in the hundreds, even thousands. They purchase fine glass-ware, often unique to different styles of wine, and the latest in gadgets and supplies, too. Most consumers, though, do not fall into the collector category. Yet many still desire some of the high-end trappings to better enjoy their own pursuits of the vine. It is this group’s purchasing interests that are greatly influencing the home remodeling market now.
Marvin and Rene Clawson, the husband-and-wife team behind Clawson Architects—a full-service architectural and interior design firm in Maplewood—confirm that accessibility to wine is a design request they hear a lot, as kitchens need to allow families to do more and more multi-tasking. “Ninety percent of all the kitchen designs we do now include a wine refrigerator in or adjacent to the kitchen,” says Rene Clawson.
That refrigerator may be built somewhere into the kitchen design or as part of a separate beverage center, in the area that in the past was usually populated by a pantry. The cost of the unit itself—EuroCave makes several popular models—can run from the hundreds to the many thousands, not including carpentry, electrical, installation, etc. These modern conveniences are not just for new construction, but often they are retro-fitted and integrated into historic homes.
“We also help create efficiencies in larger homes for busy families”, adds Marvin Clawson. “In those homes, we are encouraging clients to include a beverage center on the second floor and, when the primary wine collection is a greater distance away, wine refrigerators in the master bedroom suite.”
Another trend in the home remodeling marketplace is transforming basement space into deluxe wine cellars. Not every homeowner, it seems, opts for a rec room or man cave. In most cases, a basement actually makes an ideal location for efficiently storing and enjoying a wine collection—subterranean basements work particularly well—and rates as a huge plus if and when the home goes on the market.
Depending on how homeowners plan to use the space (just storage…or perhaps something more ambitious, like a tasting area), a project like this can range from four figures to six figures. Work in a designer’s fee, as this is a renovation you definitely want to get right the first time.
Wine Enthusiast Companies, based across the river in Mt. Kisco, is the biggest wine storage and accessories company in the United States, shipping out over a half million products this past year. For over 30 years, they have been at the forefront of the market, selling everything from simple corkscrews to elaborate wine storage systems. Because of their Westchester location, the northern and central New Jersey markets are strong for them. Jacki Strum, the Director of Communications and Social Media at The Wine Enthusiast, says the company sells everything to do with wine but wine.
“We have a production development team that is focused on assessing the interests of our customers and then developing new products or identifying top-quality products made elsewhere,” she explains. Not surprisingly, they are a leader in wine storage sales. Demand for wine preservation (items and systems) and wine gadgets is on the rise, too.
Marshall Tilden III is a sales manager at The Wine Enthusiast who oversees a team of storage consultants that fields over one million calls and emails annually. “We ascertain our customers’ future wine purchasing goals, their storage needs and drinking habits and work within their budgets,” he explains. “Our customers often start off with us as apartment-dwellers and when they move to the suburbs, we help them to adjust their wine storage needs for bigger living space and bigger collections.”
What’s Cooking at Retail?
“In the cooking gadgetry world, wine is definitely a trend,” says Ben Salmon, proprietor of the South Orange kitchenware and home entertaining jewel box, Kitchen a la Mode. “We’re seeing tons of new gadgets to keep wine chilled after it leaves the fridge, both in the bottle and in the glass. Aeration is another wine gadget category that continues to be robust. Many more people are using gadgets to help their wines breathe as they’re being poured rather than using the traditional decanter method.”
Elaborate wine openers are sometimes installed as part of a kitchen or wine room design, but as a rule consumers seem to be favoring simple openers that are made well with high-quality materials. As for glassware, customers are rethinking “a different glass for every wine” and picking one or two shapes that are versatile in highlighting a variety of wines. “People tend to be buying higher quantities of one or two types of glass than lower numbers of a variety of shapes,” Salmon reports. “I also see consumers moving away from the very inexpensive glasses that are not sturdy and have that horrible beaded rim, but also moving away from the very expensive glasses that can be too delicate for the price. I’m seeing sales surge in high-quality restaurant supply glasses—well-made glasses that drink nicely and don’t cost a fortune.”
Gifting of wine-themed items has seen significant growth according to both Tilden and Salmon, who also note the increasing popularity in the “upcycling” of old wine barrels and bottles for cheese boards, candleholders, tables, and wine storage. The boom in wine-themed products at trade shows is a good indication that more variety will be coming to market.
Editor’s Note: Hank Zona is a wine educator with a loyal following in New Jersey. You can read more of Hank’s work and peruse his event schedule at thegrapesunwrapped.com.