Storage and temperature for your wine cellar is often a topic of debate around the dinner table of wine collectors. There are some basic rules of thumb regarding storage but there also some temperature issues that some wine drinkers fail to consider. I would like to write about both.
When you buy your new wine cooler from Wine Cellar Depot or have a cellar built they will recommend a storage temperature of 12-13C and a relative humidity between 50-70%. A new fully loaded cellar will probably run constantly for quite some time when you first fill it up as all those bottles represent a giant thermal mass. Once the wine storage achieves the desired temperature it will take quite some time to warm up (in the event of a power outage etc) for the same reason it takes a long time to cool down, thermal mass. Quickly opening and closing the door will dump some cold air out but will not change the temperature of the bottles in any significant way.
It is wise to consider the temperature of the retailer that you buy your wine from. If the store is uncomfortably warm in the summer it’s likely your wine has been compromised. You might store your wine properly but if the merchant doesn’t then it’s a moot point. In my opinion the question should be asked of fine wine merchants. How do they warehouse wine before it’s sold and under what conditions will the wine be delivered/shipped? IE, if I was having wine shipped from the Lower Mainland to Oliver BC it would not be my first choice to Fed EX or mail it between May and August as the wine might be exposed to high temperatures during the delivery process.
Another thing to consider is wine tourism. It’s a fabulous experience to visit wineries in the Okanagan Valley, Walla Walla, Napa etc. You can often buy older library wines or specialty products that are not available through your local retailer. Have you wondered what happens to the wine in the trunk of your car? I put a maximum/minimum thermometer in the trunk of my car in Vancouver during a warmish summer many years ago. I checked it a month later and found the maximum temperature had reached 41 C. This would be far too warm for a case of wine for an afternoon, let alone a few days of a weekend vacation. I encourage you to minimize the exposure of your winery purchases by returning your wine to an air conditioned hotel as soon as possible and have your wines in the back seat of the car with the AC on rather than the trunk.
Now we get to the best part of wine… drinking it. It has been my experience over the years that most reds are served too warm and most whites are served too cold. It has become standard practice to suggest serving reds at room temperature; however in North America we tend to keep our homes a bit warmer. My suggestion would be 17C for reds and 10C for whites. Champagne and sparkling wines might be served as low as 10C. So put a room temp red in the fridge for 15 minutes or so and take the white out and pour it 10-15 minutes before and you will enjoy your wine a LOT more.