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,
I visited a high-end wine retailer and was surprised to see their premium wines displayed under bright fluorescent lighting. Doesn't that damage the wines?
—Steve, Canberra, Australia
You’re right that certain types of light, principally ultraviolet light, can harm wine—exposure to it is one of the four primary considerations for proper wine storage, along with temperature, humidity and vibration. And it's one of the reasons most wine is bottled in tinted glass, to give it a little extra UV protection.
Ultraviolet light damage isn't instantly perceptible, but over time, a wine exposed to UV light can age prematurely. Ultraviolet light—electromagnetic radiation that comes from the sun, tanning lamps and black lights—can harm a person’s skin, eyes, as well as degrade polymers and dyes, so it's no surprise that it's also not good for wine. UV rays can break down molecules and accelerate degradation in wine, hence the premature aging risk.
Not all light is necessarily bad, however. LED lights (which are also made in tube format and can easily be confused for fluorescent lights) are best, because they emit a fraction of the heat and UV radiation of most other light sources.