Trapdoor in the Kitchen Floor: Spiral Wine Cellars

We don't have anything close to a wine collection; we keep perhaps three or four bottles around. So a wine cellar is quite unnecessary, but that doesn't stop us fantasizing about a dusty cellar full of old vintages. Then we saw the Spiral Cellar, and that romantic idea of a wine cellar was joined up with an even older fantasy: the trapdoor in the kitchen floor.

A trapdoor! It's a trope of mysteries, spy novels, and thrillers. How many times has a hero escaped from the bad guys at the last minute, letting the trapdoor fall over his head? They would never think to look under the kitchen floor!

These Spiral Cellars seem like they are tapping into that primal romanticism, the same sort that led us to build forts out of blankets and chairs and progress to treehouses with "Keep Out" signs as we got older. The only difference is that this cellar design has a rather more grownup function.

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The Spiral Cellar system was developed in 1978 by a Frenchman who saw that few modern houses had wine cellars, but that people still needed a place to store their wine. If a wine-lover has a serious collection it can quickly outgrow wine racks and refrigerator units. So he came up with the Spiral Cellar design, which uses the earth to insulate and create good storage conditions. It does this, however, in a fraction of the space of a regular cellar. It also can maintain a constant temperature with no power required.

A spiral cellar is dug into the floor by a professional team, and the cellar storage itself is created from concrete wrapped in a watertight lining. Passive ventilation keeps the temperature around 55°, an ideal temperature for wine storage. There are several sizes, holding from 1000-1600 bottles.

Of course, this is one indulgence for wealthy or well-off wine drinkers only. The Spiral Cellar purchase and installation runs at least $30,000. (Their costs seem to be much lower in Great Britain; a cellar costs about £9,000, or $12,000.) One site reported that there is an option to buy a kit and install the cellar yourself, but we can't find this on their current site; it may not be offered anymore. This cellar price, though, is still much cheaper than installing a full-blown, climate controlled wine cellar in the basement.

Regardless, we won't be installing a Spiral Cellar anytime soon; we're quite happy with our mini wine rack. But we love gawking at the pictures of trapdoors in the kitchen and under the dining room table (click through the thumbnails above to see more shots). Just think of announcing to your guests: I'll go pick up another bottle... and then throwing open a trapdoor in the floor! Pretty great, huh?

More about Spiral Cellars here, including photos of installation.

Related: Wines to Keep: Robert Weil Riesling

(Images: Spiral Cellars)

(Originally posted January 21, 2009)

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