War bunkers and volcanic caves: Spectacular places to store wine

Story highlights

  • Advancements in technology and architecture have enabled modern wine cellars to be built in unexpected places
  • From a French hilltop to a Hong Kong military bunker, CNN takes a tour through some of the world's most surprising cellars

(CNN)Historically, wine cellars have been buried beneath a vineyard's water bed to ensure sufficient moisture and cool temperatures.

But thanks to new technology and sophisticated architecture, modern cellars can mimic Mother Nature almost anywhere.
    Whether high on a hilltop or built into a bunker, beautiful wine storage solutions can now be found in some surprising places.
    "Today, putting a wine cellar in your 33rd-floor apartment is just as easy as in an underground cellar," says James Molesworth, senior editor of Wine Spectator.
    Molesworth points to Château Cheval Blanc, in Bordeaux, as an exemplary above-ground wine cellar.
    "For me the key is combining both visual eye candy with actual practicality and efficiency," says Molesworth.

    Above ground

    Designed by Christian de Portzamparc, Château Cheval Blanc's undulating white facade appears at home on a hilltop in the French countryside, complete with its own grassy rooftop.
    Château Cheval Blanc, Bordeaux by French architect Christian de Portzamparc
    Stretching across 19,685 square feet, the avant-garde cellar streams natural light across artfully lined rows of concrete white vats.
    "All the vats are cement and pear-shaped, corresponding to parcel sizes on the vineyard," says Molesworth.
    Carefully labeled with the plot number, capacity, grape variety and date planted, these vats allow Cheval Blanc to manage fine details within a vast vineyard.
    "By devoting individual vats to each plot, the winemaking team can pick each parcel when they wish, and then manage smaller and smaller vinifications before eventual blending," says Molesworth.
    "In essence, they are handling the vineyards at its smallest pixilation, then assembling the final picture -- or blend -- from that," says Molesworth.

    Precision storage

    Another unconventional cellar -- albeit subterranean -- is Hong Kong's Crown Wine Cellars in Shouson Hill, discretely hidden on the south side of Hong Kong Island.
    Buried 60 feet underground inside a network of former military bunkers, the cellars are accessed through a concrete tunnel that opens into a series of 1,000-square-foot chambers, each of which are protected by 3-foot-thick reinforced concrete walls.
    Crown Wine Cellars in Hong Kong was a former secret military facility
    While it appears rugged on the outside, the cellar's interior features state-of-the-art climate-control technology to protect its clients' rare vintages stored inside.
    "Temperature and humidity are the two key things -- a quiet, stable environment too, with no vibration," says Molesworth of an ideal cellaring environment. "You wouldn't put a wine cellar under train tracks, basically."
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    The perfect conditions? Approximately 70% humidity, stable temperatures between 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit, and little to no light.
    "Ideally, wine should be stored in a dark space as ultraviolet light destroys wine -- hence colored glass bottles," says Adam Bilbey, a wine specialist with auction house Sotheby's.
    "And wine should be kept lying still at a perfectly horizontal angle."

    Contemporary classics

    Of course, even with an influx of contemporary cellars, the classics aren't going anywhere.
    Take US billionaire William Koch's now famous Palm Beach wine cellar in Florida, which pays homage to traditional European cellars of days gone by.
    William Koch's Palm Beach Wine Cellar
    One of three extraordinary facilities he maintains -- the other two are in Aspen, Colorado and Cape Cod, Massachusetts -- its underground labyrinth of Austrian red bricks and custom-built arched doorways houses a selection of the wines from his 20,000-bottle collection, one of the largest in the US.
    "An incredible attention to detail was needed to create this masterpiece. With Koch's legendary collection of wine, it was fitting it should be cellared in such a beautiful way," says Bilbey.
    Explore some of the world's most beautiful wine cellars in the gallery above.