Should I apply wax or plastic film to prevent wine corks from drying out?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I have more wine than my temperature- and humidity-controlled storage unit can accommodate. I’m storing the less expensive wines in a relatively dry cellar, and I’m concerned that the corks could dry out. Should I try to protect them by applying wax or plastic film? Or should I just leave them alone?

—Henrik, Copenhagen, Denmark

Dear Henrik,

Running out of trustworthy storage space is an all-too-common problem among wine lovers—you’re not alone! But your plan to set aside your short-term storage wines in what’s considered a “passive” cellar is a good one.

Ideally, wine should be stored at 55° F (13° C) in 50 to 80 percent humidity, avoiding direct light, vibration and temperature fluctuation.

If you’re not sure what the humidity in your cellar is, you should be able to find an inexpensive digital thermometer/hygrometer. As long as your bottles are stored on their sides, with the wine in contact with the cork, 50 percent humidity should be more than adequate to keep your corks in good shape for a few years.

If the air in your cellar is so dry that you still fear your corks could desiccate, you could buy a humidifier. Some other ways to humidify the space include putting out a bucket or pan of water, filling the space with plants (that you’re going to water) or hanging wet laundry to dry in there. Just keep an eye on your hygrometer as you make adjustments.

I wouldn’t alter the bottles in any way. If they already have foil capsules or wax seals, that’s fine, but those bottle additions are primarily cosmetic these days. Altering the bottles by adding your own wax seals or wrapping your bottles in plastic wrap is more likely to devalue or damage your wines than it is to protect them. Plastic wrap specifically could result in mold growth if any condensation gets trapped between the plastic and the bottle.

—Dr. Vinny

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