How Does Humidity Affect Wine?

Red wine glass

The winemaking process is full of subtle complexity, with all sorts of variables that can be adjusted to craft a truly unique result. Even after the wine is bottled, it’s still sensitive to some of these variables. If you want to preserve the true quality and flavor of the wines you choose, you’ll need to create the right environment. This includes wine cellar humidity control.

The Right Amount of Humidity Can Be Good for Wine

man with wine

In addition to keeping your wine at an ideal temperature (around 55° F), you should maintain a recommended humidity of 50-70%. A little variation from these guidelines is usually fine, but moving too far from them in either direction is risky. An environment with appropriate wine storage humidity protects both your wine and your wine cellar.

Good Cork Integrity

Cork is a unique natural material that is highly water resistant yet still able to absorb and lose moisture. When the humidity in the storage area falls within the 50-70% range, the consistent cork humidity keeps the seal intact.

Preservation of Flavor

While the humidity won’t directly affect the wine in the bottle, anything that affects the cork creates a weak spot. Keeping the cork in good condition protects the seal and prevents anything from getting in and affecting the wine. When you finally open the bottle, the wine will taste just the way it’s supposed to.

No Risks to Property

Every homeowner knows how crucial it is to protect their property from unwanted moisture. Even when that moisture is suspended in the air as water vapor, too much of it can cause problems in walls, insulation, furniture, and more. With well-controlled cellar humidity levels, the structure and contents of the space will stay in good condition.

Too Much (or Too Little) Humidity Can Be Detrimental

stacked up wine bottles in the cellar

When the air is too humid or too dry, seemingly small problems can lead to big losses in wine quality (and sometimes funds for repairs). The following are just some of the things that can go wrong if the humidity is too high or low.

Mold and Mildew

Bothersome microbes like mold and mildew thrive in moist environments. If it’s too humid where you keep your wine, they can take up residence on porous surfaces. If it develops on the labels and corks, it may put the wine at risk of contamination and introduce other health hazards.

Unsightly Label Stains

Even if you’re able to remove mold and mildew from a wine label, it can leave behind ugly stains. It’s not an issue that affects the wine itself, but a stained label impacts the experience. You might not mind it when you’re just sipping a glass on the couch, but it doesn’t look good for dinner parties or special occasions.

Annoying Condensation

When extremely humid air comes into contact with a chilled glass bottle, the water in the air condenses into droplets on the cold surface. This condensation not only leads to dripping and label wrinkling, but it can also make bottles uncomfortable and slippery to grasp.

Damage to the Storage Area

Excess humidity also poses a risk to everything around the wine. Too much moisture can cause damage to walls, shelves, wine racks, and more. Wooden objects can swell with moisture, then  later crack or split as they dry out. Wallpaper may start wrinkling, and porous surfaces may develop growths. Extreme humidity can have serious long-term effects on your property, as well.

Shrunken Corks, Oxidized Wine, and Poor Flavor

If the air is too dry, the cork can start to dry out and shrink. If the cork shrinks enough for the bottle’s seal to be broken, air can get in and oxidize the wine. Oxidation affects both color and flavor, turning bold reds brown and giving the wine a vinegar-like taste. There’s also a risk of contamination from anything that makes it past the weakened seal.

How to Regulate the Humidity of Wine

wine storage

There are several different ways you can ensure good humidity for wine storage. Here are just a few common solutions that can help you achieve the right level of moisture.

Vapor Barriers

Much like insulation protects against heat transfer, vapor barriers can be used to prevent the transfer of moisture from other areas in your home. Installing a vapor barrier is one of the most effective means of controlling humidity, which makes it a must-have feature for condensation-free wine storage.

Vapor barriers can be made from a variety of materials, including foil, plastic, foam, and even asphalt-coated paper. They’re commonly installed in the walls of homes to prevent moisture from dampening insulation, but they’re effective for just about any humidity control purpose. If you live in an especially dry or humid climate, a vapor barrier will be crucial to keeping moisture where it belongs.

Wine Cellar Cooling and Humidity Systems

Wine cellar design ideas

Another common solution is to install a specialized cooling and humidity control system. These systems can measure the room’s temperature and relative humidity, then cool, humidify or dehumidify the air as needed. This makes the whole regulation process simple and automatic.

Wine cooling units come in various sizes and types to suit all kinds of cellars. If you have a small space under 2000 cubic feet, for example, a through-wall system with adjustable temperature and humidity controls gives you what you need without taking up floor space.

Expert Cellar Design

wood wine cellar design

The very best way to ensure a good environment is to start from the ground up. With the help of cellar design experts, you can create the perfect wine storage with all the features and controls you need.

At Wine Racks America, we offer professional wine cellar design services that won’t use up your entire project budget. No matter what you envision for your dream cellar, our experienced team will help you explore your options, create a cellar plan and estimate the overall cost. Plus, all of our consultations, CAD designs, and revisions are free.

Contact us today to get started on your very own custom wine cellar. Or, if you already have a cellar, browse our selection online for everything you need to outfit it.

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Wine Racks America