Climate is one of the most significant factors affecting the quality of wine over time. Most people know there’s an ideal temperature for serving wine, but may not be aware temperature is even more important in wine storage. Just a few degrees can make the difference between oenological perfection and bitter disappointment.
Whether you’re a dedicated wine collector or an occasional connoisseur, understanding the importance of temperature in wine storage will enhance your enjoyment of all your favourite wines.
Why Temperature Matters in Wine Storage
We tend not to think much of shelf life when it comes to alcoholic beverages, assuming they either stay the same or improve with age. In reality, wine is a perishable good, and not all wines are destined to age gracefully.
Most wines on the market are crafted to be enjoyed relatively soon after bottling. No matter how carefully you store them, these ‘ready-to-drink’ wines won’t get better over time. Only select varieties wine are suitable to age beyond a few months.
Regardless, storage temperature affects the quality of wine in both the long as well as the short term. Ready-to-drink wines will maintain their quality for longer in ideal temperatures, and temperature control is critical if you intend to store the wine for years.
How Temperature Effects Wine
Each bottle of wine contains a number of chemical compounds. As these compounds react, the tastes and aromas slowly evolve, and the wine develops unique characteristics that only come with time.
The wine aging process is highly sensitive to the environment, especially the temperature. Warm temperatures (15 degrees and above) can cause the process to accelerate, disrupting the delicate balance of compounds. By contrast, cooler temperatures (10 degrees and below) stunt the aging process.
The best temperature for wine storage is one that will allow the wine to age at a steady pace. While wine experts disagree on the precise number, most agree that between 12 and 14 degrees is an ideal temperature for storing both red and white wines.
Importance of Humidity in Wine Storage
Temperature isn’t the only thing that matters in wine storage; the humidity of your wine cellar is just as important.
Wine corks are made from the bark of a tree known as the cork oak. Like other wood products, cork shrinks and expands as the humidity fluctuates. When the humidity is low (60 percent and below), wine corks contract, and oxygen can seep into the bottle.
Repeated fluctuations in humidity can be disastrous to a wine collection, as repeated exposure to oxygen will cause wine to lose its freshness and spoil.
The ideal humidity level for wine storage is between 70 and 80 percent. Humidity above that range won’t affect the wine, but it can encourage the growth of mold and mildew, which can damage the exterior of the cork and the labels.
The Best Place to Store Wine
The best temperature for wine storage is between 12 and 14 degrees, and the ideal humidity is 70 to 80 percent. However, few people are lucky enough to have a space in their home that meets these conditions. At an average temperature of 4.4 degrees, the kitchen fridge is far too cold and dry for wine storage, and the typical room temperature (about 20 degrees) is too warm.
So, what’s the best place to store wine?
An unheated basement space, like a utility room, can be an option for wine storage. However, these areas are often prone to fluctuations in temperature and humidity, especially in the spring and fall. Those who wish to store wine for longer than a few months will have to monitor the environment, and may have to invest in space cooling and/or a humidifier to maintain consistency.
The simplest and most reliable place to store wine is in a specialized wine refrigerator, like the Silhouette line of appliances. Silhouette wine cellars have a touch screen display that lets you adjust temperature and humidity settings without opening and closing the door, ensuring the ideal conditions for both long and short-term wine storage.