The increased consumption of wine has led many homeowners to carve out places to store it. For an ever-growing number of people, however, a bottle of fine wine can be as close as the basement or a cabinet underneath the kitchen counter, stored with dozens or even hundreds of others.

Wine consumption in this country appears to be increasing. One reason may be that recent medical studies have shown that there are health benefits to consuming a moderate amount of wine each day.

In addition, there has been an increase in the amount of entertaining people do at home. What better way to show off than to have a special place for storing bottles of wine?

The popularity of wine cellars -- or more accurately, wine storage areas -- is growing by leaps and bounds, according to those who design and build them.

Although wine cellars traditionally have been just that -- cellars -- short-term storage can be carved out of spaces as small as underneath the kitchen cabinet for less than $1,000. These refrigerated under-counter cabinets typically hold about 60 bottles.

According to residential builders, the 60-bottle storage units are popular with upper-end buyers -- those shopping in the $700,000 to $900,000 range.

Sizes and locations of wine storage areas may differ, but the contents of the bottle determine how they function.

Wine is properly stored in an environment in which the temperature is 53 to 57 degrees and the humidity ranges between 65 and 70 percent. If a bottle of wine is allowed to get too warm, even for just for a short time, the aging process is accelerated, and, eventually, the liquid turns to vinegar.

Keeping the humidity at a constant 65 percent keeps the corks moist. If the cork dries out and shrivels up, air may get into the bottle and spoil the wine.

Wine bottles and storage areas are dark because ultraviolet light can cause wine to deteriorate.

The popularity of larger storage areas in the new-home market is subject to some dispute. The trend to larger houses in the upper end of the market causes some experts to think that builders need to offer something different to compete.

This means that when you build an 8,000-square-foot house, you are going to have to fill it with more amenities than your competitors. They build media rooms with $11,000 in equipment. Why can't they spend $1,500 for a sauna, or a similarly priced wine storage room?

What makes one $750,000 house more attractive to a buyer than another $750,000 house? It certainly isn't more drywall.

The people who build wine rooms say that more of their business is coming from the West Coast and Florida than the East Coast and the Midwest, but it is never wise to generalize.

It seems, however, that the largest part of the residential market generally is the small, under-the-counter cabinet, because you need a house that's at least 3,000 square feet to have a separate room for storing wine.

The rule of thumb about wine enthusiasts seems to be that people who build smaller storage rooms buy wine to drink, while those with larger rooms buy wine to show it off, or as an investment.

Some connoisseurs have small collections -- no more than 200 bottles -- of fine wines, so you don't need that much space. Some people with 3,000 bottles are the drinkers.

As I’ve said, there is definitely a show-off quality to wine storage rooms. People want to be able to invite their friends to see it.

Price can be a deterrent. An 8-by-8-foot room, framed and insulated, with an individually designed cooling unit, racks for 1,000 bottles, and a solid-core wooden door starts at $8,800 to $9,000.

Homeowners interested in building a wine storage unit should expect to spend about $1.50 per bottle. That means the largest unit -- a 148.75-inch-by-75-inch model with a capacity of 1,920 bottles, would cost about $3,000, including the cooling unit, which is installed like an air conditioner.

The cooling unit by itself costs $650.

The typical size is 8-by-10-feet, about the size of a guest bedroom. Storage racks can be configured for single-bottle storage, double-depth bottle storage, magnums (1.5 liters or twice the capacity of a bottle) and crates, to name four options.

The rooms are cedar or redwood which helps keep the room dark and damp. Floors can be made of anything. The look of terracotta or tile is pleasant, although a wine bottle falling on a tile floor can be a shattering experience.

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