One of the great ironies of aging wine is that all the things that help a grape grow – sunlight, temperature variation, warmth, dryness – can all ruin a wine once it’s made. That’s why having a wine refrigerator can solve all your wine-storage problems, while only provoking a couple of snide comments from friends about how bougie you’ve become. Here’s why a wine fridge matters.
Think about that nice bottle of wine like a little Goldilocks. It needs things to be “just right.” If you store it in a place that’s too hot (usually 70-75 degrees Farenheit), it can “cook,” basically aging too rapidly and causing the formation of terrible-tasting compounds. If you store it in temperatures that are too cold, below about 45 degrees (and keep in mind, most refrigerators are at about 33-35 degrees), it won’t develop properly, and the lack of moisture can cause the cork to shrink and let air seep into the wine, damaging it. Instead, you need to store it at a temperature that’s juuuuuust right (I’m calling it at 55 degrees Fahrenheit) that remains constant.
Temperature consistency is the other major factor to consider. You don’t want wine to cool off or heat up too quickly because that can cause both the liquid and the cork to expand or contract. That could allow seepage, and again messing with those flavors you’ve patiently been waiting to taste.
Listen to Hugh Jackman. Too much sunlight can not only damage your own skin, but also your wine. UV rays can prematurely age wine, and there’s no eye cream in the world that can solve that problem. That’s also why wine bottles tend to be dark – they’re kind of like sunglasses for your wine (as if wine wasn’t cool enough already). Though they tend to have glass fronts, wine fridges keep most of the harmful light out and keep the quality in.
The other major factor is humidity. You know how it makes your hair big and frizzy? Well, it keeps that cork the size it’s supposed to be, too, so that it does its job and keeps oxygen from getting in. Your ideal range will be 50-80%.
Finally, Sideways wasn’t just a movie about wine. It’s a word to live by when it comes to wine storage. Storing your wine on its side keeps the liquid up against the cork, which in turn keeps it from drying out. Again, no seepage.
So there you have it. A wine fridge keeps your wine safe, but unless you’re a major collector, chances are you just need a small one for those few special bottles you have. Luckily, there are more makes, models and sizes out there than ever, so you can find the perfect one for your needs…which I’ll discuss in a future post.
Until then, stay cool. But not too cool. Just around 55 degrees.