Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
Is it safe to use silica gel beads to reduce humidity in a wine cellar? The humidity in my cellar is over 85 percent, and I’m concerned about mold developing over time on the cellar walls (the temperature is a stable 55 degrees F, with a professionally installed, ducted wine cellar cooling system).
—Lois, San Rafael, Calif.
Yes, that should be safe. Silica gel is a desiccant, which means it helps remove moisture because water will cling to it. I’ve seen those little packets that say “do not eat” on them in everything from a package of beef jerky to a bottle of vitamins and even in a shoebox. Of course, you really shouldn’t eat them, even thought they’re made from silicon dioxide and essentially harmless.
However, if moisture is a concern in your cellar, I’m wondering if silica is the best way to go. From what I understand, water can adhere to up to 40 percent of the silica’s weight in moisture. I’m not sure how much silica gel you were thinking of investing in, but perhaps a dehumidifier would be a better route? I’ve seen desktop sizes that start at $40 and go up from there, but how big of a dehumidifier you’d need depends on the size of your cellar.