Log In / Join Now

Ask Dr. Vinny

Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

Dear Dr. Vinny,

Why should I add a cooling unit to my wine room? The temperature is 55 degrees from November through April, 60 degrees from May through October, and the rest is 66 to 68 degrees. I make wine from Lodi fruit and typically drink it by the fourth year. The wine tastes great, but can it be better with a cooling unit? Based on what I told you, is it OK to not spend the $1,000 plus?

—Bob, Columbus, Ohio

Dear Bob,

Hold on there, fella. I never told you (or anyone) that they needed to buy a cooling unit. Sure, the ideal cellar conditions are a constant 55 degrees F and about 70 percent humidity, away from light, heat, vibration and temperature fluctuation. All I suggest is that you do what you can, within your budget, to get as close to that as possible. For some, it’ll be a dark corner of a closet. For others, it’ll be a much more elaborate system.

What you have is what’s called a passive cellar; that is, one that’s not climate-controlled. That’s fine—many of the best wineries in the world have caves and cellars dug into the earth because it provides a good wine environment. Will your wines taste better with a cooling unit? It’s possible that they would stay fresher longer and age more gracefully. If you hold on to rare or collectible wines (especially if you might choose to resell them), or if you like your wines with more bottle age, a cooling unit becomes a little more important than if you’re a “drink ’em now” kind of guy.

I can’t tell you whether upgrading to an active cellar is a good idea for you. But let me ask you this: How much did you spend last year on your wine habit? If a $1,000 cooling unit represents less than 25 percent—or, especially, less than 10 percent—of your annual wine-buying budget, you might want to think about it more carefully. Anyone who cellars wine already has an investment in wine. Might as well start thinking about protecting it.

—Dr. Vinny

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.