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. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
We are considering building a small, 500-bottle cellar in our basement. Can you tell us whether temperature control or humidity control is more important?
—Jody, Cheyenne, Wyo.
The ideal cellar maintains a constant, reasonably humid, 55-degree-ish temperature, free of strong light, heat, temperature fluctuation or vibrations. Of these, I'd say the most important element is a constant temperature—hopefully a cool constant temperature (ideally under 60 degrees F). Higher temperatures accelerate the effects of aging. Temperature fluctuation can result in a cork expanding and contracting, which can introduce oxygen into a bottle, prematurely aging it via oxidation. For most people, humidity isn't much of a problem, as long as you keep the bottles lying on their sides to keep the corks moist and you don't live in an arid setting. Strong light and vibration are to be avoided, so please abandon the idea of using your old tanning bed on top of the washing machine to store your wine.
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