The idea for Spiral Cellars was first dreamed up by a Frenchman called Georges Harnois in the late-Seventies, after friends living in houses without cellars complained they didn’t have enough room in their homes to store wine. As Harnois is a bit of an inventor, he decided to find a solution to the problem and, luckily for us, the result was wonderful.
Inspired by the Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct near Remoulins, he dug a hole in his garage and made a cellar with brick walls and a spiral staircase. Over time, he improved the design and, after receiving a positive reception from his friends, turned his idea into a business, which he eventually brought to Britain in 1981.
I became involved in the company in 2004, when my friend Nigel Hall presented me with the idea buying Spiral Cellars after hearing about it from a business associate. I really enjoy wine and could see the potential from a marketing perspective. We both thought, ‘This is great!’ – one of those chances that comes once in a lifetime, one you can’t miss. I was enrolled on a wine course at the time and since then I’ve really improved my wine knowledge – it’s an important part of my job – and I have my own collection. One of my greatest pleasures is picking a wine from my own store to enjoy with a meal.
Since 2004, we have evolved the product hugely – taking it from a fairly basic design, intended for function, to one that looks and feels very modern and glamorous. We have smoothed and brightened the concrete shell, and brought in a range of accessories, lighting options and glass trapdoors. By making wine storage elegant and attractive, we’ve brought it out of the garage and into the heart of the home. George Harnois is in his seventies now and tells us how proud he is of how we’ve developed his invention.
Every project is a challenge in its own right, but we had particular difficulty when once asked to install a cellar in a house next to a lake, meaning the water level was higher than the top of the cellar. We managed it, but it required quite a bit of engineering input to make sure we were creating a wine cellar rather than a plunge pool. Every Spiral Cellars project is approached individually – our cellars can be adapted for almost every property and there aren’t many places where you can’t install one, even by a lake!
Our typical customer has really changed over time – it used to be wine collectors wanting to save the fees they were paying to store their collection elsewhere, but, more recently, we’ve been getting enquiries from people who don’t yet collect but who love wine and for whom entertaining at home is really important. These customers design their homes around the kitchen and with a view to friends remarking, ‘Wow, look at that, you have a James Bond cellar!’ as they peer through the glass trapdoor at the bottles and staircase beneath. Customers feel that with a Spiral Cellar they have made a real commitment to a passion, that they are taking it seriously. There is nothing worse than an empty cellar. We have also heard that a cellar can really help sell a property – it really sets them apart from the competition.
As a company, we are always trying new things and Spiral Cellars are now available everywhere from Australia and New Zealand to Poland, Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and we’re planning to launch in the US. We have also expanded our product range and now offer walk-in wine rooms and wine walls. Ultimately, we want Spiral Cellars to become the one-stop shop for home wine storage.