It’s best to keep wine in a cellar where it can age in a cooler environment, but can that wine cellar be too cold?
If a wine cellar is too cold, a range of things will happen to the wine itself. If there’s a sharp drop in temperature, the aging process is spoiled, and if the temperature reaches a low enough level, the wine can crystalize and even freeze. This will lead to the bottle cracking or popping.
Read on to learn more about wine cellars and the conditions they require to function properly.
Ancient Storage, To Modern Solutions
There is tangible evidence of humans producing and consuming wine as far back as eight thousand years ago. It’s often thought that the discovery of wine was an accident, with someone likely stumbling upon fermented grapes or fruit by mistake.
We’ve also uncovered evidence of wine cellars having existed in some form for almost as long. In 2013, for example, an ancient wine cellar was discovered in Israel, with forensic analysis determining its age to be around four thousand years.
It was a considerable size, boasting the ability to store some two thousand liters of wine. The researchers who analyzed a series of clay pots found on the site were able to detect ancient traces of honey, cinnamon bark, and juniper berries.
These ancient wine cellars were typically quite crude, with the majority of them being no more than repurposed caves. However, as the human species developed, so too did its constructs, and before long, cultures were building expansive and elaborate homes for their precious wine.
It’s thought that the Romans effectively uncovered the ‘key’ to preserving wine in the long-term. They had rooms known as fumantorires, which were essentially wine cellars filled with smoke, with the end goal of bringing down the level of oxygen in the room.
However, this style of preservation was unsuccessful as it ultimately raised the temperature in the room, causing constant spoilage. In the latter years of the Roman Empire, the people stumbled upon the notion that cool conditions were much more conducive to the preservation of wine.
Throughout the Middle Ages, when wine was essentially more popular than water, massive underground structures were built to store wine en-masse. Before long, the human species had created the perfect place to store wine – a cool, dark, underground room.
Today, wine cellars lean a little more on technology, but they have still retained the base premise: a cool room, underground, away from natural light. They tend to employ air conditioning and humidification systems, but for the most part, they remain the same as they have for centuries.
Be Cool, But Not Too Cool
Modern wine cellars can be extremely expensive builds, especially when technology is introduced into the mix. There are some wine cellars that double as tasting rooms, lounges, or bars, are some that are staggeringly enormous.
If you already have a basement or a cellar, it can easily be repurposed as a wine cellar or storage area, provided the conditions are adequate. This means the humidity, light, and temperature of the room must be managed, consistent, and appropriate.
Although, just being underground is a great starting point, as it’s naturally cooler and shielded from sunlight. We explored the requirements for an underground cellar in another article, including how deep it must be to protect the wine.
Reportedly, the ideal temperature for a wine cellar is around 55° F, with a humidity level that doesn’t fluctuate outside of fifty to seventy percent. If the humidity climbs too high, it can cause degradation of the wine; too low, and the cork stoppers in the bottles will dry out.
If your wine cellar is too cold, your wine could crystalize and even freeze, and it’ll certainly spoil and degrade rapidly. This is also the case if the temperature drops by a considerable amount too quickly – this is why technology such as air conditioning units must be positioned strategically.
When wine is allowed to freeze, it can cause irreparable damage, such as cracks in the bottle, or the cork popping out. In most cases, just being underground enables you to maintain a consistently low temperature, and you might not even need mechanical intervention.
Ultimately, if you’re going to spend thousands of dollars – or more – on a wine collection, you’ll definitely need to store it in the correct way to preserve it for as long as possible. To that end, maybe you should invest in a cool – but not too cool – wine cellar.