When you store your wine collection, you probably keep it in a cool and dark place - but did you know you also have to consider humidity? Humidity can be difficult to control unless you purchase specialised equipment or a quality wine cooler.
It is an important factor when it comes to wine storage, especially if you plan on ageing your wine. But how significant is humidity in wine storage? And why? Keep reading to find out.
When storing wine, most people prioritise maintaining a cool temperature or protecting the wine from UV rays - but humidity is also something that should be considered. The recommended humidity levels for storing wine in the long term is between 60% and 86% - but many wine coolers will offer a range of 55% to 85%.
If the humidity levels are too low, then the air will become too dry and the cork will dry out. When the cork dries, it will allow oxygen to enter the bottle, leading to oxidation. The wine will then undergo chemical reactions that will spoil the wine, leaving a bitter, acidic taste.
If you store your wine in low humidity levels for too long, there’s a high chance that the cork will slip out of place, causing the wine to spill. Not only will you lose your valuable wine, but if left unattended for too long, bacteria will feed on it causing mould to grow.
Ensuring that the air isn’t too dry isn’t enough - when storing wine, you should also ensure that the air isn’t too moist. Storing wine in overly humid conditions can also have negative effects on your wine. It can cause the cork to dampen, allowing oxygen into your wine - which is something no wine-lover wants to happen.
As well as damaging your wine, environments with humidity levels of over 85% can also damage wine cabinets and wine bottles. Water molecules will evaporate and condense onto the sides of the wine cabinet and bottles, encouraging mould growth - after all, mould loves moisture.
If you’re a wine collector, you invest in wine, or you simply plan on ageing your wine, then you should make sure that your wine is stored at the perfect humidity levels. Too much humidity can cause the labels to peel off and the lettering on the labels to smudge.
The good news is that most quality wine cabinets and wine coolers have active humidifiers to ensure that your wine remains in perfect condition. Some will even have sensors and alarms to monitor the humidity levels, so you’ll be aware if the humidifier stops working.
If you live in a warmer or dryer country, then you should purchase a wine cabinet that comes with a water tray for you to fill up. The water in the tray will evaporate and be distributed around your wine through the fans, ensuring that your wine remains relatively moist. However, if you live in a cooler country, then humidity shouldn’t be too much of an issue as the air should already be quite moist.
A little humidity is necessary in order to protect the wine and the bottle - so we recommend purchasing a wine storage unit that considers humidity as well as the other storage factors - which we’re about to discuss.
Although an important one, humidity isn’t the only factor that you need to consider when storing your wine collection. When storing your wine, be sure to consider temperature, light, and vibrations.
Temperature is probably the most important thing that you need to consider when it comes to wine storage. Despite this, many people will overlook this when storing their wine, and store their wine in conditions that are too warm or too cold.
Avoid storing your wine in icy garages, in freezers, the cupboard above or next to your oven, or near any warm appliances. Storing your wine outside the range of 11ºC and 15ºC can damage your wine, and storing your wine in too-cold temperatures can be just as bad as storing your wine in overly warm conditions.
Warm conditions can cause your wine to develop a cooked taste, which is usually pretty unpleasant. It can cause the ageing process to speed up and the natural flavour profiles of the wine to deteriorate, along with the aromas and appearance. You may like the taste of mulled wine, but most wines won’t taste too great (or fresh) after being stored at 20ºC.
Temperatures below 10ºC or 11ºC can cause the wine to freeze, which can damage the wine, cork, and bottle. The cork may shrink and push out of the bottle, allowing oxygen to enter the bottle - which again, no wine collector wants to happen. Depending on which angle you store your wine at, it could also leak and damage the labels of other wines in your collection.
The good news is that wine fridges are designed to store your wine at the best temperature. If you don’t have a wine fridge, be sure to purchase a thermometer so you can check your wine is in the right temperature range.
You should also ensure that you keep your wine away from sunlight. UV rays can damage your wine, affecting the taste, smell, and appearance. UV light can speed up the ageing process by triggering chemical reactions within the body of the wine.
This can damage the natural flavours and aromas of the wine, leaving an unpleasant bitter taste. Be sure to shelter your wine from UV rays. If your wine cooler has a glass door, double-check that it has been UV treated.
Wine is usually stored in green or dark bottles, which offers some UV protection. However, white wine and sparkling wines often come in clear bottles that offer very little protection from sunlight - so be sure to take extra steps when storing them.
Although maybe not as important as temperature, light, and of course, humidity, excessive vibration or movements can also negatively affect your wine collection. Movement can prevent any sediment from settling in the bottle, which can leave sediment floating around the wine which can taste unpleasant.