Q: I use a regular air conditioner in my cellar, with temperatures between 59°F to 62°F and humidity of around 80 percent, but have noticed recently that the bottles directly in front of the cooling unit have mold. Is that bad?—Joe Ledesma, Manila, Philippines
A: It sounds like the mold in your cellar may result from excessively high humidity -- unless there is a leak in the cellar's vapor barrier. Eighty percent humidity is at the top end of recommended levels. While the mold itself will not necessarily harm your wine, it could produce an unpleasant, stinky odor on your labels. High humidity may ultimately cause them to slip off. This is why many wineries do not place labels on wines held in underground storage until they are ready to ship. You can place a small dehumidifier in your cellar to reduce the mold problem. If you decide to clean the bottles or racks affected by the mold, do not use bleach, which actually could penetrate a cork. Instead, consider rubbing alcohol, distilled vinegar or some other non-toxic "green" product available at hardware or drugstores.
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