When storing wine, it’s essential to find the right environment and maintain proper, consistent temperatures and humidity levels. Once exposed to air, wine could rapidly lose its flavor and aroma due to oxidation. The quality of wine can be damaged by microorganisms in the air.
The best location for wine storage is in the coolest and most humid part of the house, typically the basement or cellar. You need a temperature of around 55°F and humidity levels of 50% to 70% RH. However, in case the humidity levels in the basement goes beyond this ideal range, the excess moisture creates an environment vulnerable to mold growth. Too little moisture, on the other hand, can cause the cork to shrink and then expand, allowing air to seep into the bottle.
While wine cellars are typically cold and moist, extreme humidity cannot be good for wine quality. Furthermore, sudden changes in temperature and humidity can damage the cork, the bottle’s labels, and the wine itself. If high humidity levels are a usual problem in your home, you may need a good dehumidifier to maintain the proper conditions for your wine collection. Below, we’ll give you the basic guidelines in storing wine properly.
How to Store Wine Properly
Store Wine at the Optimal Temperature
While humidity levels are important, the temperature must be the first to consider when storing wine, and then you can adjust the humidity levels accordingly. If you have a dedicated cellar for wine storage, try to keep the air temperature around 55°F or within 52°F to 58°F. Slight changes in temperatures may not cause any significant harm, but temperatures above 70°F can cause the wine to age more rapidly. Further, prolonged exposure to heat above 80°F can “cook” the wine, giving it a more tangy, acidic flavor by the hour.
Likewise, storage that is too cold can damage your wine, although it’s not as bad as the heat. The wine could freeze and expand if left too cold. Expansion could push out the cork or even crack the bottle. More than the actual temperature, it’s even more important to maintain consistent temperatures in your wine cellar.
Sudden changes in temperature can damage the wine. This is why wine cellars are usually underground and away from sunlight. Even fluctuations of 3°F (hence the 52°F to 58°F range) can cause the cork and the liquid to expand, unsealing the cork a little bit. Then, when the temperature drops again, the wine contracts. With the cork pushed out of place, the moist air may sneak into the bottle along with unwanted odors and harmful VOCs.
Maintain Proper Humidity Level for Wine
The ideal wine cellar humidity is from 50% to 70%. This is more humid than what you should aim for in the rest of the home (40-60% RH).
You need to meet these conditions because the cork is made of an organic material that readily absorbs moisture. If the air is too dry, the corks could shrink, and that might help air to creep into the bottle, ruining your wine.
But if humidity is too high, it can encourage the growth of mold on the corks and other porous materials near the bottle storage. When mold settles on a surface, it can cause damage to bottle labels or wooden wine racks. Mold can also cause bad odors, which could affect the wine’s taste and quality.
Limit Light Exposure and Vibrations
Light exposure can have similar harmful effects as heat and air exposure on wine. Over time, it can age your wine rapidly and compromise its taste and quality. Many wine bottles use tinted glass to prevent too much exposure, especially to UV rays. Overall, the best solution would be to store wine away from direct sunlight and fluorescent lighting in a dark corner of the house, hence why cellars are usually underground.
Likewise, too much movement or vibrations can harm your wine. Avoid storing your wine near kitchen equipment or cooling systems that produce such vibrations (like on top of a refrigerator). These vibrations (or even manual shaking) can cause chemical reactions that age the wine more quickly, affecting its taste and aroma.
What Can Affect Humidity Levels in a Wine Storage?
The humidity level in your wine storage space results from many different factors, but mainly the climate or the current environmental conditions outside. The temperature and relative humidity can both change drastically throughout a single day or go from one extreme to the other depending on the season. Getting them both under control is essential in preserving wine.
The ideal conditions for a wine cellar is different from the rest of your home. The location of your wine storage in the house can also affect the temperature and relative humidity inside.
Although it’s not strictly always underground, a wine room or cellar is usually in the lowest, coolest part of the house. If it’s in the basement, it must be separated from any living or sleeping space. In most cases, all you need is a wine cooler or chiller that’s enough to contain anywhere from six to 30 bottles of wine.
If you don’t want to purchase a chiller separate from the regular fridge, DIY wine racks are also good enough for a small collection. Just avoid storing in places without the right conditions. For instance, kitchens and other highly-trafficked areas in your home should be avoided, especially those that are well-lit and too hot for wine storage. Likewise, avoid placing your wine near windows or anywhere with direct sunlight and fluctuating temperatures. You’ll also want to avoid storing your wine near items with strong smells that can affect the taste and aroma.
If you have a larger collection, you may need to fit a wine cellar in the coldest part of your home. You can store up to 1,000 bottles in a minimum of 50 square feet. Take note that you need to install insulation or add a vapor barrier to maintain optimal temperature and relative humidity level in the cellar.
What You Need in a Wine Storage
If you do decide store your wine in a dedicated cellar, you must learn to keep both temperature and humidity within the proper range. To do so, you may need to enlist the help of an appliance such as a dehumidifier or humidifier. If humidity levels become too high, a dehumidifier works to reduce humidity down to optimal levels. But if humidity is too low, you can use a humidifier to add moisture. The best device for your wine cellar depends mostly on the size and humidity levels in the space.
The first thing you must consider is the dehumidifeir capacity or the maximum amount of moisture it can remove within 24 hours, usually measured in pints. Standard sizes today range from 20 to 70 pints. Humidity levels above 80% in large spaces will need a more powerful dehumidifier. A higher capacity also typically means larger coverage.
The most common process of dehumidification involves condensation, so you must be careful of keeping the temperatures within the proper range. Water (and wine) may freeze between 20°F and 40°F. To prevent any potentially damaging effects, maintain a temperature at least within 50°F to 65°F. Most dehumidifier units can only operate in temperatures down to 41°F.
Because you need precise temperature and humidity control inside the cellar, you must choose an appliance with a digital humidistat. You need to maintain the proper conditions without extreme changes in temperatures and humidity levels. If you’re using a dehumidifier, make sure to set the humidistat to at least 60% to 70% RH. If you’re using a humidifier to increase humidity, it may be helpful to have a hygrometer or humidity sensor to monitor and control humidity levels. Likewise, may need a thermostat to monitor and adjust the temperatures accordingly.
Maintaining the right temperature and humidity levels are critical in proper wine storage. Remember that the ideal wine cellar humidity is from 50% to 70% RH, while the ideal temperature is around 55°F or within 52°F to 58°F. However, without the right storage, these conditions can change drastically within a day, putting your expensive wine in danger of spoilage.
Exposing your wine to too much heat or cold can ruin its taste and quality. Proper wine storage conditions help preserve your wine for years. When storing wine, make sure that the ambient temperature and humidity stays consistent. More than the actual temperature, this consistency is important in protecting your wine in storage. Monitor the temperature and humidity levels with an accurate thermostat with a hygrometer or a separate humidistat. This way you’ll know whether you need a dehumidifier, humidifier, or any other device before any damage occurs.