ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

I’ve read on a number of occasions that bright light is bad for wine. However, wine stores are brightly lit, and the wines may be exposed to it for days or even weeks. So how bad can it be?

—Jerry W., Minneapolis

Dear Jerry,

One reason light is a concern is that it’s related to heat, and heat is unquestionably bad for your vino. It also appears that ultraviolet rays—the same ones that I blame my wrinkles on—can penetrate bottles and cause degradation of the wine inside. A few weeks of indirect light probably won’t do much to a wine, but a few years of direct light, especially if combined with high heat, a faulty closure, and/or arid conditions, and you might find a bottle fading. (Bottles of sparkling wine are particularly susceptible to the negative effects of UV rays.)

Obviously we need light to see and pick out bottles of wine, but you should use discretion when shopping. Some of my favorite wine shops are dim inside. If that’s not an option, I never grab the display bottle on top; I go for the other bottles that are stacked below. At all costs, avoid wines sitting in a window or parked under a neon sign.

—Dr. Vinny


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