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Apr 21, 2011 08:46 PM

What Bad Things Happen To Your Wines When They Are Stored at Temps in the '70's?

I have recently gotten into collecting wine. So far, I haven't wanted to invest in a wine cooler. I do have a small off-site storage locker where I almost immediately whisk my more expensive wines and where they are properly stored at 55 degrees.

However, I like to have some wines at home and have been keeping them in a partially closed cabinet in the coolest room. Room doesn't get a lot of sunlight and I'm guessing that even in summer, temps are unlikely to go much past the '70's. Still, as summer is coming, I'm afraid that my wines are going to go to ruin and that perhaps I should whisk all but one or two bottles off to my off-site storage. We're not talking about pricey Bordeauxs, but we are also not talking about two-buck Chuck either -- just carefully chosen mid-priced wines that I would hate to go to ruin. It could be a year or so until they are drunk.

So what exactly happens to wine stored at temps in the '70's? And what happens if there is a heat wave and the indoor temp goes up to the '80's for a few days?

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  1. If they are wines you intend to drink in the next year or so they should be fine. Your wines will likely age a bit faster than if they were in your storage unit, but if you're drinking them within a year, it won't be noticable.

    1. Are these wines that you are hoping to age for many years, prior to drinking?

      Are these wines that you plan on holding onto, and then selling at auction, sometime in the future?

      If not, then a consistency in temp is likely to be more important, than the temp. Also, if the temp variance is slow, things should be OK.

      Now, aging a wine is a very complex procedure. There are many elements to the aging, and many actions, that take place. The short story is that higher storage temps will age a wine faster. In reality, it is not so simple, but for general discussion, that works.

      If you planned on placing a wine in a 55F cellar for 20 years, then think about drinking in 7 - 10. Will it be exactly the same, as that bottle stored in a 55F, dark cellar for 20? No, but not that far off. The differences would be subtle, and many might never know the difference. It is not totally unlike decanting a young wine for a couple of hours. It's NOT the same as cellar aging, but similar.

      What is your goal with these wines?

      Good luck,


      1 Reply
      1. re: Bill Hunt

        Thanks for the insight. These are not wines that I plan to age for many years or to sell. Just wines that have caught my fancy, but just didn't seem expensive enough to go to the trouble of being whisked off immediately to my wine locker.

        I'm also wondering how already aged wines fit into the equation. For instance, I recently purchased and drank a 1986 Chinon that I thought was magnificent, so I just ordered a second bottle. I have no idea if that 25 year old wine is at its peak or could withstand further aging, but I'm wondering if that is the kind of wine that should be immediately whisked off to my storage locker lest it being stored in less than perfect conditions quickly render it over the hill.

        On the other side of the equation, I recently tasted a mid-priced 2006 Barolo which I thought was great, but which I understand will be even better in a couple of years. I liked it so much I just bought a bottle and I am wondering (perhaps wishful thinking) if keeping it at home in a warmer environment will make it more luscious even sooner?

      2. 70 degrees is too hot for any type of storage except for the most inexpensive wine that you don't really care about. 80 degrees will ruin most wines. The more age on the bottle, the more fragile it is. It is not as simple as raising the temperature and aging it faster. You run the risk of developing a flaw in the wine that would not have been there if the bottle was kept between 55 and 65 degrees for seasonal variation (like many Chateaus keep them) for the same length of time. Seasonal variation is fine, but that is very different than the temps shooting up during the day and cooling off at night.

        It is okay to have incremental temperature variations in your cellar, but you need to make sure that it does not shoot from say 58 to 68 degrees in a day or two. This will loosen the cork and cause leakage- not to mention permanently damaging the structure of the wine for future aging.

        I have an off site storage facility, a wine room and wine coolers. Each has a purpose. All you need to do is know your seasonal temps for your area, decide on which wine to drink within a specific time frame and which to store for over a year . If you decide to buy some aged wine, store it in a cooler with the constant 55 degrees to be sure. You wouldn't want to buy a 20 year old wine then put it into a 70 degree storage for a year. It may very well cook it.

        4 Replies
        1. re: sedimental

          Hmmn. It sounds like I need to pay a visit to my wine locker like tomorrow. And to think about investing in a small home wine cooler, although I have been reluctant to do so because all the real cheap ones have terrible reviews and I'm not in the mood to spend a lot of money on a wine cooler at the moment.

          1. re: omotosando

            I would keep a few nice bottles in the room for the entire year - then taste them. I would guess they would be okay for the year, but it sounds like you are not sure if your room will go up to 80 or not. If it is unstable in temp, it will never be suitable for long term storage or for aged wines.

            You might just get a cheapie cooler. Some people are really concerned about looks, wood panels or sleek design, they want a light in it, varying temperature options, low noise, etc. All those things have nothing to do with staying on and keeping your wine cool! Maybe just a small cheap one will cut down on your trips to storage since you can keep wines for 2 or 3 years drinking in it.

            I have a small one in my wine room that I keep a few racks full with special aged reds for drinking in a year or two, then aged whites for special summer events, then everyday whites and Beaujolais for drinking at the correct temperature...and one of the corner spaces in the top shelf.....for special pieces of chocolate :) As the bottles are used (and not yet filled back up) it is great for dark beer, V-8 juice, etc. Things that you want "kinda cold" but not need ice cold. I really like mine and it is not fancy at all.

            1. re: sedimental

              Unfortunately, the only place where I have space for a wine cooler would be right in the living room and I just can't bear to put some ugly cheap thing in my otherwise carefully curated living room.

              Ended up taking all but five bottles to my wine locker today (and one of the 5 bottles doesn't even count because it's a bottle of mass-produced California Chardonnay that someone gave me). Figured that moving the wine off-site was better than worrying about the bottles as we move into summer.

              Of course, moving the bottles to my wine storage does raise a question brought on by the comments on this thread about stability of temperature. I've had some of the bottles I moved since January where they have been sitting at temperatures in the '60's (during the coldest part of winter) and probably in the '70's as of late and today the bottles were moved to 55 degrees. If stability of temperature is important perhaps I have just ruined some good wines by suddenly thrusting them into 55 degree storage?

              1. re: omotosando

                Naw. It's not going to ruin the wine inside. Its more about leakage. Older wines-(or sometimes cheaper wines) the corks are more fragile or there might be a slight flaw in the cork or in the seating of the cork. When the temperature changes suddenly, or repeated changes those types of corks can't withstand the pressure changes inside the bottle-and they move a teeeny bit...resulting in leaking. You will notice it if they do but I bet they will be fine.

        2. I was told by a wine vendor in the States as well as a number of winemakers in France that the *stability* of the temperature is more important than the actual temperature, and all gave their ok to keeping wine in a closet in our air-conditioned home (78F) under a cloth to keep the light off of the bottles.

          No impact on quality that we could ever discern.

          Obviously this applies only to stuff you're going to drink in the not-too-distant future, not something being squirreled away as an investment or for long-term aging.

          1 Reply
          1. re: sunshine842

            Exactly! I had my thermostat set to raise and lower the temp in our house for when we go to work and then come home. I lost about 10 bottles from the change in temp. A constant temp in the low to mid 70's should not be an issue if you drink it up within a reasonable time.

          2. If you are thinking of aging wines for investment, an off premises aging facility does add to the favorable provenance of the cases.