Never underestimate the power of wine in beautiful surrounds to make people emotional to the point of tears – tears of joy, of course.
Darren Caesar, master cellar design craftsman at Caesar Wine Cellars, has seen many clients get emotional – in a happy way – after seeing the dramatic transformative effect his custom-designed and built wine cellars have on their homes.
He has more than 20 years’ experience in wine cellar design and glazing, taking elements from fine wine production itself like creativity and attention to detail, to transform a dead space into a spectacular new hub of the home.
As with fine wine, much thought, planning and experience goes into Darren’s cellars – and only the best materials will do. First and foremost there’s the temperature and humidity to consider to protect the prized bottles, of course, together with the position of the cellar, sunlight, the flow of traffic, insulation, vibrations and the texture and colours of the various materials.
The magical ingredient
The magical ingredient in Caesar Wine Cellars is mood lighting, strategically positioned to create ambience and style and make the bottles the stars of the space. There’s something atmospheric about the play of light – and shadows – on bottles and racks in harmony with the texture of stone feature walls and reclaimed timber.
LED lights can also be incorporated into the cabinetry to add to the ambience with several switches to create different moods depending on the occasion.
Darren also likes to paint the walls and ceiling black.
“Because we want the bottles to be the heroes,” he says.
“With big white walls, everything just disappears. And that’s the thing about a lot of modern houses now, there’s a lot of white. You need something to lift it all and our cellars certainly do that, adding character.”
Glass art features
Darren’s wife is renowned glass artist Lisa de Boer, whose spectacular hand-painted bespoke glass art features in many of his wine cellars, providing a focus, making a statement and adding style and the all-important wow factor.
Big on sustainability, Darren works with recycled timber with a particular love for blackbutt, a native hardwood that is “amazingly strong”, sturdy and durable.
Much of it is sourced from old barns, bridges and warehouses, displaying the imperfections of its previous life which adds to the authenticity and sustainability of a cellar.
“Every piece of wood has a unique story,” Darren says.
“No two pieces of timber are alike, which gives depth and unique character to the ensemble of wine cellar timber racks and framing.
“Integrating various racking systems such as cable and glass racks to some of the multiple metal racking systems available, adds to the overall aesthetic appeal of a cellar.
“Everything is about creating interest.”
Wine is flavour of the month
Darren is an avid wine collector himself, with Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon as well as lighter varieties well represented in his own cellar.
He sees wine growing in popularity in the broader community – not just among wealthy individuals – with more and more people having a home cellar on their wish list.
“I think wine is definitely flavour of the month,” he says.
“We see a growing number of people who want to create these special spaces in their homes. The same with wine bars and pubs.
“This is good for the wine industry and if we can help in our own little way, that’s great.”
Darren cautions anyone considering a wine cellar to do their homework and understand the pitfalls of ill-planned or poorly executed wine cellars.
“The lack of good planning and use of incorrect materials can result in issues from glass condensation and mould to climate control failure – ultimately affecting your prized wine collection and a headache to repair.”
Darren personally oversees each project from start to finish, having several briefings with clients in the early stages to ensure they’re on the same page.
While many winemakers still prefer to take notes with pen and paper, Darren sketches the drawings in his note pad before the draftsman produces the CAD drawings.
He says clients always comment on the streamlined process and the minimal disruption to their lives during the build.
They underestimate one thing.
“Sometimes they underestimate how many bottles are needed to fill the cellar,” he says. “You need quite a few bottles to make an impact, to have the desired effect.”
The emotion comes out
So Darren is a good friend to Australian wine, not only promoting a culture of proper storage and presentation of great bottles, but doing his bit for sales as well.
He never tires of the reaction from happy customers when a cellar is finished, full of bottles and the lights turned on.
“I’ve had clients virtually crying when they see the end result,” he says.
“That’s the best part of the job.
“Seeing everything coming together and not only transforming a space into something special, but creating something that people are proud to have in their homes, adding joy to their lives. Wine is made with a lot of love and care, and so are these cellars.
“It’s very personal, and I love that.”
• This article was first published in WBM – Australia’s Wine Business Magazine.