Posts Tagged ‘humidity’

What’s the Optimal Wine Storage Temperature?

August 1st, 2011 No comments

Designer Wine Rack Series Veneer Diamond Cube With Face TrimAs we’ve discussed in previous blogs, the temperature at which a wine is stored (and served) can bring out the best (or Traditional Redwood 2 Column Individual Wine Rack With Displayworst) of a given bottle, but an entire wine collection can be at stake if “ideal” storage temperatures are not maintained.  Many big collections have been unnecessarily damaged because of such unstable temperatures.  For example, temperatures above 65ºF encourage wine to age too quickly, causing their flavor and balance to suffer in the process.  Contrariwise, cellars that are too cold cause wines to lose their characteristic aromas and flavors. Rapid temperature fluctuations, too, can damage a wine’s cork and, thus, the wine as well.

Though the common temperature range for storing red wine has been between 50ºF and 55ºF, with whites stored as low as 45ºF, wine cellar expert David Spon (and Vintage Cellars!) recommends keeping a cellar at  55ºF, and at 60% to 75% humidity.  If the air is too humid, mold can grow and even damage your cellar’s wood.  If too dry, corks can crack.  David also notes that some people keep their cellars a little bit warmer if they store mostly young wines, and slightly cooler if their collections consist of older ones (since wines age more slowly in colder temperatures.)

If you don’t want to see your wine collection ruined, it’s a good idea to invest in a decent wine cellar or specially-crafted wine storage cabinet.  Stylish wine cellars can be built easily and affordably using designer wine racks or traditional redwood wine racks. Wine storage cabinets, like regal wine credenzas, also offer affordable (and classy) options.  Remember to store wine horizontally to keep the cork moist, and never freeze a bottle of wine!  When stored properly, and at the ideal temperature, your wine collection will age gracefully and provide anticipated delight.

Want to learn more about the correct storage conditions for your wine? Head over to the Wine Storage Education Center to read more about temperature, humidity, cooling systems and more. We’ve even done separate articles on the right storage conditions for red wine, white wine and sparkling wine/Champagne.

Vintage Series 4 Door Single Deep Credenza Wine Storage Console

Humidity in Wine Cellars

July 6th, 2010 No comments

We know that wine has to be kept at a low temperature in order to age well.  It’s logical—we keep our perishable items cool so that they don’t spoil as quickly, and wine is, of course, a perishable item.  But what’s with the humidity thing?  Does wine really need to be kept at a certain level of humidity in order to keep from spoiling and aid aging?  Or is that just a useless feature that wine cellar makers have convinced us we need?  Bottom line: what does a wine refrigerator have that a regular refrigerator doesn’t?

The reason we need a humid environment in which to store wine mostly has to do with the cork.  So let’s talk about cork and it’s role in wine storage:  Cork comes from cork trees, which are mostly grown in Europe, and so is an organic substance.  (Incidentally, cork growing is a completely sustainable type of farming, since the tree is not killed to harvest the cork, and cork forests across the world protect many rare species of plants and animals, not to mention the cork farmers that rely on the trees for their livelihood.  Click here if you want to read our argument in support of keeping corks natural.)

Cork is the ideal material for sealing wine bottles, because it can expand and contract as its environment changes.  This is particularly useful for wine, because the glass bottles wine is kept in change their shape with the weather—cooler temperature cause the silicon dioxide molecules that make up glass to squeeze closer together, shrinking the bottle.  Warmer conditions cause them to spread out, expanding the bottle.  Although you want to protect your wine from temperature fluctuations, it is naturally and unavoidably exposed to a variety of environments (when it’s being bottled, when it’s being shipped, and when you’re taking it home from the store, for example).  The plastic nature of cork means that it expands and contracts with the glass, maintaining a tight seal between your wine and the outside world.

So, corks are very important for maintaining stable conditions inside your wine bottle.  And humidity is essential to maintaining the integrity of a cork.  Too dry, and the cork shrinks, letting in too much oxygen and causing cork taint (when a cork is so dry it cracks when you pull it out, the wine is almost certain to be ruined).  Too wet, and mold can form on the corks—it can rot them out and taint your wine.  (However, a little mold on the outside of a very old bottle’s cork is perfectly normal, as long as the mold is only on the dry side.)

The ideal humidity level at which to store wine is 50%-70% relative humidity.  The best kind of humidifiers are generally separate from the cooling systems, although if you live in a humid area or have a certain type of cooling system, you might be ok.  Through-the-wall humidifiers are the most heavy-duty choice.

Wall fountains are an artistic way to add humidity to your wine cellar.

A wall fountain is one way of adding humidity to a wine cellar.

Another very cool option is a fountain humidifier.  These work by circulating water through a fountain, allowing it to evaporate into the air and humidify the environment.  These wine cellar humidifier fountains can be a unique and aesthetically pleasing part of a wine cellar, and they are sure a conversation starter—no one expects to see a fountain among the dusty bottles.  Fountain humidifiers, however, don’t provide as much humidifying power as through-the-wall humidifiers, so if you live in the desert, one might not be an option.

You can learn more about humidifying a wine cellar and types of humidifiers here in our Education Center.

The humidity factor is what differentiates a wine cellar from a refrigerator.  The right humidity is crucial to the success of your wine aging endeavors.  Humidity needs change from area to area, and humidifiers require that your wine cellar is properly insulated and sealed to work properly, so make sure you contact a wine cellar professional about your specific humidification needs.