Will my wines be damaged if they get too cold?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I live in the northeast and I built a wine cellar a few years back. Unfortunately, I didn't have a basement, so I created a 60-square-foot room in my garage. I insulated it and purchased a WhisperKool to control the temperature and humidity. When winter sets in and the temperature drops down to 0° F outside, the temperature in the wine cellar has readings like a refrigerator, i.e., in the mid-30s. Are these low temperatures in the wine room damaging my wine?

—Raymond C., Bedford, Mass.

Dear Raymond,

I think your wine will be fine. Extreme cold is not nearly as bad for wine as extreme heat. Cold slows down the aging process. And even if your wine is fluctuating from the ideal 55° F temperatures down to as low as mid-30s, as long as the fluctuation is happening gradually, it’s not that bad.

The concern about cold temperatures and wine is that if the bottle gets really cold for an extended period, the liquid inside will expand as it freezes, and it could put pressure on the cork or even crack the bottle. Wine freezes at around 15° to 20° F.

You’ll know if your bottle has cracked, but it might be less clear if the cork has been compromised. As a wine warms back up, it might bring some oxygen back into the bottle, which can potentially prematurely age your wine. So keep an eye out for signs of leakage, such as a sticky cork or wine stains under the capsule. Even if there was some leakage, there's no way to tell if or how it affected the wine except by opening the bottle and tasting it.

Since we’re talking about freezing temperatures here, I should also remind you that some folks like to freeze their leftover wine, with pretty good results.

—Dr. Vinny

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