16 Oct Purpose Built Wine Vault In Central Auckland – The Wine Storage Room
All grown up since the dark old days of wall-to-wall Müller-Thurgau, New Zealand cellars are home to a more world class selection of wines than ever. We have more vinophiles, wine collectors and of course, producers — 2,023 vineyards at last count, home to 1,408 individual wineries or growers after a remarkable 24 consecutive years of local industry growth.
The question is where to put it all. Specialist wine services like commercial cellaring have long been thin on the ground by comparison, but the advantages of high-tech off-site storage for both private clients and the industry make you wonder why anyone would try it at home.
The Wine Storage Room on Auckland’s inner city fringe is the newest commercial cellar setting out to meet the ready-made demand to lock up your cabernets.
Founder Reece Warren says that when he launched sister business The Wine Auction Room in 2018, he had a hunch Kiwis were ready for more — a full suite of specialist wine services that overseas oenophiles typically take for granted.
“The wine auction scene, people buying and selling interesting or sought after bottles of wine, was very small with just a couple of other players locally, so initially we were dipping our toes in just to test if it really was a viable market. And it just took off.”
Adjunct services like insurances and advisory — how to build a collection, how to value a cellar — quickly followed, but the number one request from both his Kiwi clients and offshore buyers was for commercial cellaring to protect their fragile purchases with optimal climate control.
“It was clear the few commercial cellars in New Zealand were already full. So, we made the big financial decision to invest in building a storage centre from the ground up that’s basically a wine-lover’s ultimate high tech dream shed.”
Creating his first major business with fixed assets — unlike the lumpy auction biz — was always going to be a new adventure, but the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic saw the adrenaline of project deadlines replaced by the anxiety of uncertainty as manufacturers shut down their plants for lockdown.
“We had a forest of galavanised poles ready and waiting for final fit-outs, so it was a couple of expensive months.”
Almost every element inside the impressive Eden Terrace site is bespoke. Lockers are constructed from a combination of both perforated and solid steel, “just to make sure we got the maximum airflow. We also have built-in back-up capability so that if any one piece of equipment fails, or there’s a power cut, we’ve got it covered and can maintain a constant, perfect environment.”
The high-tech temperature and humidity control — it’s vital to keep wine at between 60 and 70 per cent humidity, a perennial challenge in New Zealand — was designed by the same company that provides refrigerated systems for hospital pharmaceuticals. A two-factor security system with 24-hour, high-definition CCTV and infrared sensors complements custom security grilles made by a company that provides prison systems. The envelope has allowed for 42 private wine lockers ranging from 3.4 to 17 cubic metres — and a 3.4 m³ locker holds 1,200 bottles while the largest stores a whopping 6,700.
For the consumer, a point of difference is an uncommonly wide, shallow locker design that means when you open the doors to your locker, everything is in front of you and you don’t have to waste time or risk breakages by digging around for one particular coveted bottle of wine.
Clients have already spilled over from the wine auction scene, but the target market is wider than individual collectors and consortiums. The site’s central location close to a main Auckland arterial means, for example, a winery in Wanaka might chose to store some product locally so that they can get product to a restaurant quickly if the restaurant client runs out.
Steve Allen, Cellar Master of The Wine Storage Room, says a lot of thought has gone into the community that goes with the wine.
“I’m not going to be talking to walls all day. We’re in a position where if people want to offload their wine for any reason, we have the auction business to assist them to sell, so we can give them that integrated service. If a client has a trophy collection but is missing one vintage, they can just let me know and we’ll keep our eye out and try and source it on their behalf.”
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