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Dear Dr. Vinny,
We recently moved into an older house with a wine cellar. The racks are aromatic cedar, which our contractor insists will affect the taste of wine and should be replaced with a hard wood like mahogany. Thoughts?
—Paul B., West Vancouver, British Columbia
I can speak from experience here: I have used cedar wine racks, and have never had a problem with the odor affecting my wines. Sure, when they were first installed I could walk into the cellar and get a whiff of cedar, but it faded pretty quickly. Plus, there’s no proof that ambient odors could affect the aromatics of sealed bottles of wine. That’s not to say a bottle’s label might not pick up a strong odor of something nearby, but not the wine itself.
A few different woods are commonly used for wine racks, including cedar, redwood and mahogany. Cedar is popular because it’s attractive and relatively affordable. Mahogany is gorgeous and takes to wood staining better, and is perhaps a bit more durable and resistant to rot. But it does come with a higher price tag.
Let me advise you this way—if you’re looking for an excuse to remodel your cellar, if you have concerns about rot or water damage, and if you can afford the mahogany cellar your contractor is recommending, then go for it. But outside of that, I think you’re fine with your current cellar.
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