If you’re going to be serious about collecting wine it’s important to understand that it remains a “living entity” – and that temperature, humidity, and environmental factors will very much play a role in how your wine matures (or spoils) if left unchecked.
There’s a reason why serious wine enthusiasts spend so much money on high-end refrigeration and humidity control systems, and why every self-respecting restaurant with a dedicated wine list fully outfits their own “wine caves” with HVAC systems to maintain the perfect temperature and the perfect humidity all year round.
Now, you don’t necessarily have to go to these kinds of extremes to protect your wine collection or to enjoy a couple of bottles that you have set aside. But there are some key details you’ll want to master if you’re getting serious about keeping wine any longer than the night you bring it home from the store!
Temperature is critical
As human beings we run pretty hot as a general rule of thumb (our internal temp sits at 98.6°F – 37°C – on average) and like our room temperatures to be quite a bit lower than that – usually in the 70°F department all year round, give or take.
This is way (WAY) too hot for wine.
Instead you’ll want to shoot for temperatures that sit between 52°F and 58°F, but it’s even more important to do your level best to minimize temperature swings. If you have wine storage temperatures that bounce between 58°F and 65°F with no real rhyme or reason the odds of spoiling your wine skyrocket significantly.
This is because the temperature affects the liquid inside the bottle, moving air into and out of the cork because of its porous nature. The more air your wine is exposed to the more it’s going to oxidize, and that’s going to damage the delicate nature of wine – some more than others, but it’s going to be damaged all the same.
Humidity is a big piece of the puzzle, too
Typical humidity levels inside of a home hover around 20% to 30% humidity, the kinds of humidity levels you’ll find in wine caves and dedicated wine refrigerators is usually much closer to 50% to 70% humidity – if not even a little higher than that.
Keeping your wine inside of a humid and temperature controlled space protects the cork as much as possible, helping it to swell up in the extra humidity and protect against air getting into the bottle.
As we highlighted above, air oxidizes wine and wreaks havoc across the board. This is why you can’t leave wine unopened for too long without it starting to taste funny. You’ll want to keep the humidity levels high so that the cork isn’t drying out, but you want to make sure that the humidity levels aren’t so high that mold begins to form – destroying the wine as well.
It’s definitely a bit of a tight rope to walk, but as a general rule as long as you can dial in the temperature and humidity levels of your wine storage solution to the figures we highlighted above you really shouldn’t have much to worry about moving forward.
Most modern wine refrigerator options are set up with these parameters in mind already, but there are plenty of DIY projects if you have a larger collection you want to store or just interested in tackling a fun project.