Wine is a perishable commodity, and proper wine storage in wine cellars is critical to maintaining the delicate flavour and bouquet of the wine. The wine storage process impacts the aging of the wine and the development of tannins. Tannins within wine add astringency, bitterness, and complexity to the overall flavour.

Homemade wine cellars, most commonly developed in basement dwellings, are one of the best ways to store collections of wine. However, wine cellars need to support the proper temperatures, humidity, lighting, racking angles, ventilations, and vibrations to ensure the aging process occurs without spoiling the quality of the wine.

Here’s a quick breakdown of how to apply proper wine cellar storage that manages temperature, humidity, vibrations, and other age-inducing variables.


What is the best temperature for a home wine cellar?


thermometer in wine cellar, best temperature for storing wine

A stable and pervasive chill makes an effective wine cellar. In most situations, wine can be safely stored at a temperature ranging between 40° to 65°F (4° to 18°C).

The optimal storage temperature depends on a few factors. First of all, what is the current age of the bottled wine when it comes into your possession? Second of all, how long will you preserve the bottle before it will be opened?

Will you open the bottle within a year or two? A warmer temperature of 60° to 65°F (15° to 18°C) will speed the development of the bottle bouquet to accommodate shorter aging periods. If you’re preserving the bottle for the long-term, you should cool things down closer to the 40°F (4°C) temperature.


What type of wine are you preserving in your wine cellar?


Another important consideration is the type of wine that will be preserved. Specifically, are you chilling white wines or red wines?

Quality white wines are usually consumed sooner than finely aged red wines. As a result, white wines typically require cooler storage temperatures. The flavours and bouquet of the wine must develop quicker than a red wine that, typically, ages for longer periods of time. Warmer temperatures rapidly disintegrate the esters, or fruity characters, within white wines.

Additionally, consider the compositions of the wines. Light to medium-bodied white wines, such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvingnon Blancs, can be stored at temperatures between 45 and 50°F (7 and 10°C). Heavier white wines, such as Chardonnays, should be stored at slightly higher temperatures, peaking at 55°F (12.7°C).


What happens when wine is stored at room temperature?


Storing wine at room temperature of 70°F (21°C) causes undesirable changes in the wine composition. Various reactions are accelerated within the bottle, impacting the taste and texture of the wine itself. The aging process is thrown off-balance if storage temperatures approach the room temperature benchmark within a 5° to 10°F (2° to 4°C) range.


What happens when wine is stored at too hot a temperature?


Wine is cooking if the temperature approaches 80°F (26°C). A cooked wine emits a slightly burned smell resembling a bad fruit stew when uncorked from an overheated storage space. The taste of a cooked wine is an unpleasant experience because the finish is absolutely ruined.

Never store wines in environments that produce inconsistent temperatures. Attics or garages, for example, are susceptible to extreme heat and frigid cold, depending on the season. Extreme temperature fluctuations in environments like attics and garages make both locations terrible places to store bottled wine.


What happens when wine is stored at too cold a temperature?


By contrast, wine that’s been too refrigerated also suffers. Frigid chilling temperatures subject the liquid to a process called “slow aging.” This means it doesn’t mature and develop the more subtle flavours and textures that are created from the aging process.


What kind of wine storage equipment do you need?


Wall mounted wooden wine racks, wine coolers, temperature and humidity controls, storage angles and decanters are just some of the equipment necessary to protect and perfectly age a high quality bottle of wine.


wooden wine racks in glass door wine cellar Toronto


How to maintain a consistent wine cellar temperature?


First and foremost, build a secure wine cellar storage space. This means investing in the right equipment, the right infrastructure, and proper insulation. Make sure there are no gaps in your cellar storage space.


Become one of the top wine cellar owners rather than a less successful one. Unsuccessful cellar builders allow air leaks to occur near windows or poorly insulated doors and ceilings. Air circulation is imperative to a proper wine aging process, so don’t skimp out on these requirements. Build a controlled environment with a proper wine cellar storage unit to control the temperature circulating within the space.


Why control humidity in a wine cellar?


Humidity is often overlooked during the construction of a wine cellar storage space. But it’s a critical factor nonetheless. Humidity control prevents mold or mildew from growing in too muggy of an environment. It protects the wooden corks in wine bottles from shrinking and drying out.

spoiled wine tastes like fruit stew , oxidized wine is vinegar


Glass and stainless steel used in modern cellars tends to be more “sterile,” but they’re very beneficial. They don’t allow mold to grow as can occur in stone or wooden structures. Mold can actually be absorbed by the wine during the aging process, seeping through the cork and directly impacting the flavour.

Concurrently, corks that are too dry are deadly to wine. A deteriorated cork loses its seal, leading to the wine’s oxidation. When the seal is broken, oxygen slowly leeches into the bottle, causing wine to convert into its more acidic form – vinegar. Wine that tastes bitter or like vinegar is usually the result of failed corking that causes wine oxidation. (Tip to winemakers: screw-cap bottle closures do not require humidity in the wine cellar.)


How to measure humidity in a wine cellar


Relative Humidity (RH) is the percentage of vapor in the air at a given temperature. Storage humidity levels should range between 60% to 80% for the ideal conditions. Too much humidity will cause mold, while too little risks dry corks and oxidized wine.

TIP: Store wine bottles on their sides to keep the cork wet. This prevents the cork from drying out should the relative humidity skew too far in the wrong direction.


How does lighting affect temperature and wine aging?


soth facing stone cellar window sunlight

Ever since humans discovered glass making, artisans have known that dark colored glass bottles shield wine from sunlight. Darker storage environments ensure the wine tastes amazing.

In the 19th century, scientists and winemakers discovered ultraviolet light. They also uncovered the potential destructive properties of UV lighting towards wine. Ultraviolet light can penetrate dark-coloured glass, causing perishable wines stored behind that glass to spoil. Ultraviolet light oxidizes the tannins, destroying the scent and taste of the wine.

Sparkling wines are even more sensitive to light (all spectrums). They should be given extra care when stored in wine cellars with lots of foot traffic and fingers on the light switches. Delicate, light-bodied white wines run the greatest risk from light exposure. That’s why they’re often packaged in darkly tinted wine bottles for protection from bright light.

Another TIP: wines packaged in clear, light green and blue coloured bottles are the most vulnerable to light.


How to protect wine from the dangers of UV lighting


program humidity meter, hygrometer in wine cellar

Fluorescent lighting emits significant amounts of ultraviolet light, and UV lighting ages wine prematurely. Too much light exposure triggers phenolic compounds within wine, creating “wine faults.” A wine fault results from poor wine making practices or storage conditions, spoiling the wine before it properly ages.

Glass wine cellars are hard to shield from bright lights and UV lighting. If you read the Rosehill wine cellar design page, you’ll notice we shy away from using glass materials. Glass has poor thermal and photosensitive properties that can spoil the wine.

Invest in a light timer to offset concerns about overexposing wine to lighting. Put your cellar lights on a timer so that the lights are programmed to switch off. If you forget to turn them off yourself, the timer takes care of it after a few minutes.

Use low-wattage surface-mounted lighting to minimize additional heat in the room. You’ll avoid making inadvertent temperature changes triggered by pot lights or LED lights. It should also be noted that low-wattage, non-heat emitting lights (LEDs) are better for wine storage than any fluorescent lighting.


What’s the best angle for wine cellar bottle racks?


Wine corks are typically made from the bark of cork oak trees. The cork oak (Quercus suber) is native to the Mediterranean region, and it’s the root supply of most of the world’s corks.

After about ten years in a wine bottle, a wooden cork can sometimes deteriorate. Deteriorations are triggered by ambient storage temperatures and humidity in the air. Warmer or excessively humid storage causes mold to grow, attacking the cork and the wine. Insufficient humidity may cause the cork to dry and crumble.

So what should you do to prevent either of these unfortunate scenarios? Store your wine at a proper angle.


Why store your wine bottles by laying them on their sides


When wine is stored on its side, the cork remains wet. When the cork is wet, airflow is controlled. Controlled airflow supports a healthy aging of the wine.

When bottles are stored upright, the cork dries out. This allows oxygen to alter the chemical compositions in the wine, which spoils the blend.

Wine Cellars from Rosehill

View our wooden wine racks with several configurations of side-angled bottle holders (which also help reduce vibration) for longer term storage options.


How to manage vibrations and micro-vibrations in wine cellars


How do the constant vibrations from a nearby roadway (streetcar!) and the micro vibrations from nearby cooling systems affect wine making and proper wine storage? They can shake, rattle and roll the body out of the wine. Constant vibrations in your wine cellar will disturb the slow process of biochemical evolution in wine and this is often fatal to finer crus.

Common mistakes include storing wine on wooden floors, which vibrate with human foot traffic. Or storing wine in basement cellars that are near or share an exterior wall with a garbage-bin pickup-point outside. Urban restaurants with basement wine cellars struggle with these man-made quakes; modern garbage trucks are massive and they make significant tremors up and down every nearby building when they shake the garbage of the bins, which is three times a week in most cities across North America.


How to protect your wine cellar from micro-vibrations?


Wall anchored wooden racks are typically the best option for long term storage as wood dampens small vibrations, and wall anchoring helps to eliminate any sway in the racks. Woods like beech, redwood, maple and mahogany are best choices for wine cellar racks because they respond well to the cool, moist environment of an Ontario cellar and these woods do not impart any negative odour that may be absorbed into the bottle as the wine ages.