Ideal Wine Cellar Temperature and Humidity: Basic Storage Guide

Updated October 16, 2019
Lady with wine racks

If you are investing in decent wines, you want to make sure you are giving them the attention they deserve during their waiting phase. Proper wine storage can have a huge impact on the quality of the wine down the road when you are ready to enjoy it. Even if you are only ever storing wines in the short-term, there are a few wine storage tips that will help ensure to maintain the integrity of the wine.

How to Store Wine: 101

When it comes to wine storage, it can be broken down into two main types. Short-term and long-term. Many of the wines people buy at regular shops today are not intended to be bottle aged, but rather meant to be enjoyed close to their release date when they are brimming with bright and fresh characteristics. There are, however, a few styles of wine that may benefit from a couple years of bottle aging. Often, these have dominant tannins and need the extra time to round out and mature. You many come across a Bordeaux or a big California cabernet sauvignon that requires a little extra time to linger.

wine storage chart

There are also wines that are in excellent drinking condition upon release but have enough structure to bottle age for a few years if you wish to see what direction the tertiary aromas take. In either of these cases, it is still considered relatively short-term wine storage. Long-term storage would apply to high-end bottles that are made with the intention of bottle aging for many years to decades after release. In either storage scenario, it is essential that you take care in keeping the following conditions consistent so your wine is drinking its very best come opening time.

Storing Wine at the Proper Temperature

Temperature control is a very important part of wine storage, and both cold and hot temperatures can have a significant negative impact on wine. The ideal storage temperature is 55ºF (13ºC). If wines are kept in very cold conditions, the cork can start to dry out or they can even freeze. In too warm of conditions, above 70°F (21°C), the wine will start to age more quickly, lose its vibrancy, and can even take on a "cooked" profile.

Avoid Temperature Fluctuations

Equally as important as storage temperature is the consistency of conditions. Good wine is not like a package of Oreos that can sit on the shelf, unphased through many seasons of air conditioners and heaters turning on and off. It's alive and needs a real helping hand to keep it at its best while sitting there. Dramatic temperature swings are not only bad for the wine but they can also cause the cork to expand and contract, leading to oxidation.

Avoid UV Light

Even if you are only storing your bottle for a week prior to opening, it's always best to store wine in a dark place, where it's not continuously exposed to light, especially UV light. UV light can prematurely age wine, damaging the aromas and flavors.

woman in wine cellar

Storing Bottles Horizontally

If your wine is capped with natural cork, you need to store the bottle on its side so that wine is in contact with the cork. This prevents the cork from drying out and keeps oxygen from reaching the wine. If the bottle has either a screw cap or synthetic cork, it isn't necessary to store it this way.

Check The Humidity

The humidity in your wine storage location also plays a role in the overall quality of the wine. Extremely low humidity can cause the cork to dry out and potentially oxidize the wine. The ideal humidity for short-term and long-term storage is around 60 percent.

Avoid Vibration

If you think that talking about vibrations affecting your wine is too hippy dippy, hang in there. While minor vibrations won't have much of an effect on wine, larger ones, say from your washer and dryer, will. These types of movements can churn up sediment, disrupting the sensitive aging process.

Getting Wine Storage Just Right

All of this might feel a little fussy, like Goldilocks trying to find her perfect bowl of porridge, but really, there is likely a spot in your home that will check the above wine storage boxes. If not, think about investing in a wine refrigerator. Often these are small appliances that can be tucked into a pantry and, for not too much money, will ensure the perfect conditions to keep all your bottles, whether they are for next weekend, next year, or that far-off retirement date.

Ideal Wine Cellar Temperature and Humidity: Basic Storage Guide