My wine fridge has an odor. Is it safe to store my wines inside plastic bags?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I bought a wine cooler a year ago and noticed that every wine bottle that I've stored in the cooler comes out having a very harsh fridge smell, even when stored for periods as short as a week. So I decided to try storing my bottles in durable plastic bags inside the fridge, which has helped eliminate the odor.

My question is, is it OK to age wine bottles inside a plastic bag? Do I need to wash or replace the bags every year?

—Karen, Singapore

Dear Karen,

First let’s deal with the smell in your wine cooler. That can happen—new coolers often have that strong new-appliance smell. You could try unplugging it and leaving the door propped open for a few days. Clean it with soap and water a few times, and try adding some baking soda into your cleaning mix.

If that doesn't work, there are plenty of products out there for fridge smells. I’d avoid adding new odors, but rather look for things to neutralize the smells, things like activated charcoal and baking soda.

Even if you still have a smell in your fridge, as unpleasant as it may be when you open the door, or you might feel like the wine label is absorbing that smell, it cannot penetrate inside your bottle of wine.

So, let’s say you dealt with the cooler smell and you’re comforted by my words that the smell won’t get inside your bottle. Should you store your wines in plastic bags? I’d say no.

Wine coolers are designed to be on the humid side, and you’re tempting the fate of mold. Even if the bags are dry, you might be creating a vapor barrier and condensation could form inside the bag. I know some collectors wrap bottles in plastic wrap to protect the labels, and I also know that sometimes that has the opposite effect and results in moldy labels.

Again the good news is that stinky labels won’t penetrate a sealed bottle of wine, but even if you don’t plan to gift or sell your wines, I’d vote against the ick of mold if possible, and don’t find any reason to store your wines in plastic bags.

—Dr. Vinny

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