The ideal wine cellar temperature is between 55ºF and 58ºF (13ºC–15ºC). However, any temperature between 40º–65ºF (5º–18ºC) will suffice as long as it remains constant.
The degree and the speed of the temperature change are critical. A gradual change of a few degrees between summer and winter won’t matter. The same change each day will harm your wines by ageing them too rapidly.
The most important rule when storing wine is to avoid large temperature changes or fluctuations. You’ll notice damage of this nature straight away from the sticky deposit that often forms around the capsule. Over time the continual expansion and contraction of the wine will damage the ‘integrity’ of the cork. It’s like having the cork pulled in and out again every day. When this happens, minute quantities of wine may be pushed out along the edge of the cork (between the cork and the bottle neck) allowing air to seep back in. Once the air is in contact with your wine the irreversible process of oxidation begins and your wine is ruined.
Wine cellar temperature should be between 55º and 58ºF when the wine will age slowly, enabling it to fully develop. Higher temperatures will age wine more rapidly and cooler temperatures will slow down the ageing process. Irreversible damage will be done if your wine is kept at a temperature above 82ºF for even a month.
At 55°F wines will age slowly and develop great complexity and you will never have to worry about them.
Every wine you buy should be placed in your cellar. Even if you are planning on opening the wine shortly after purchase it will benefit from resting to recover from the shock of traveling.
Before any bottle makes it into your cellar you need to consider the treatment it received before you acquired it.
Every wine lover knows that heat damages wine, but how many of us take care to protect our wine at every stage? For example, you buy wine at a shop or winery, but leave it in your hot car all afternoon. You get it home and place it in the ideal wine cellar temperature, but by then you may have already cooked it. Remember that high temperatures can result in undesirable chemical reactions that would not normally take place.
I’ve now built a passive home wine cellar to store my wine collection. Click here see photos of our wine cellar being built.