Question on wine storage

Hi, I just got an email from a friend who is relatively new to collecting but is buying some very good wine. I myself have two coolers, one a Vinotemp, that store 500 and 400 bottles. I’ve never had a problem using a wine cooler/fridge. I remember reading once that if there was a concern about humidity you can put a pan of water in the bottom of the cooler. I’ve never done that. Any suggestions for this gentleman?


"I had someone recently tell me that I wasn’t properly storing because my 2 units are only coolers and don’t control humidity. Is this the case? Am I risking all this wine? I have about 350 bottles in these units now. some high end stuff.

Plus, I am about to remodel a new house that we bought. Instead of building a true cellar, I was going to build in two units that hold 400 bottles each. But again, they seem to only be coolers.

If you have any suggestions for building a small cellar or best units, that would be great. I am working on plans for new house now."

Count me as one who doesn’t think humidity is a huge concern.

I am not religious about humidity, but I wouldn’t take the risk of being super low for a long period of time either- a simple gauge and a pan of water as needed to keep it above 50% are more than OK as a safety precaution, IMO.

Is he also in South Florida? Even if humidity is an issue, there is so much humidity down there that I would get something to measure humidity before I did something to add humidity.

We have a gauge in our cellar, and in relatively low-humidity NorCal it’s pretty much always in the 50-70% range, without having any water source in the cellar. We used to keep an open jar of water, but gave up on it. And nowadays there’s not even enough room in there for all the wine, let alone anything else.

Cork is bark. It is waxy and waterproof. One of it’s purposes is to keep the tree from drying out. The exposed part of a cork is about the size of a dime. If you have a capsule over that, it’s not even exposed. People have strange ideas about humidity in wine cellars but you’re not going to have a problem if you don’t have a pan of water in your cooler. And if you stored your wine in a cave deep in a mountain with water dripping from the walls, you can still have a cork that dries out and crumbles. The external humidity isn’t the issue.

And glass is also going to protect your wine from drying out. Most liquids don’t evaporate through that either.

He lives in Melbourne FL. So 50-70% is the sweet spot? I imagine in FL it is doable.


+1 I live in Alaska and have had a passive cellar is in my crawl space for 20 years. The humidity is relatively low especially in the winter months. Low humidity has never been a problem for me or any of my friends who have similar situations.

My wine fridge came with a little container for this purpose, so I use it even though it probably isn’t needed.

That all sounds sensible, but haven’t you had corks where a band around the top end has shrunken noticeably? I have, and the only explanation I can think of its that it dried out.

I was wondering this as well. My condo came with a wine fridge and it’s typically 50 degrees and 40-60% humidity. I’m looking to start buying some investment bottles and others to hold and just want to make sure those figures are ok. I’m planning to upgrade my storage eventually just not feasible at the moment. Thanks for any feedback

And I will be the contrarian here. I really like wines that have been stored long term in relatively high humidity. The labels will be nasty, usually tattered, but the fills generally are very high, and the wine is in astonishingly good shape.

If you look at some of the famous British cellars, and wines that have become legendary for their longevity, you will find many of them were stored in cool passive cellars with plenty of humidity. The famous 1870 Lafite was noted as being incredibly youthful when tasted 90 years after harvest. I can’t help feeling that it didn’t hurt that it was stored in Glamis castle (yes that Glamis!) in a remote part of Scotland.

Fortunately much of the market demands pristine labels, so I can usually find these wines at decent prices, which also adds to the fun. If you are looking to invest, then keep humidity in the 40 to 60 range, if you are young and laying down wine to drink over several decades, go with higher humidity. But be sure that you know what the wines actually are. Labels, at high humidity, have a distressing habit of falling off or deteriorating or both.

Interestingly, the very best wines I have ever had were from a passive cellar where temperature varied ten degrees, from 55 to 65 over a year, but the humidity was high. Love those wines, unfortunately down to my last few bottles.

I would be concerned about humidity in drier climates, storing wine for decades, as it would encourage seepage and cracking of corks. But I can see it being less of an issue in other climates that already have higher humidity most of the year.

Except that is not what happens. Leaking corks were bad corks when they were put into the bottle. The external humidity does not affect the cork cells past the first layer that John mentioned. Mark is lucky to get to taste some of those wines and wines that have lived in passive underground cellars that I’ve been lucky enough to try are usually fantastic, although the labels are often moldy or gone or were never even put on in the first place. But that humidity wasn’t by design, it’s just the way the places were built. Corks in bottles just don’t dry out from lack of external humidity.