You may think that you don’t need to worry about your wine cooler in the winter. After all, if it’s cold anyway, surely your wine will be fine, right? Well, unfortunately, this isn’t the case - and you may actually need to take more care in the winter months to ensure your wine cooler is storing your wine in the best possible way.
Keep reading for our top tips on how to use and care for your wine fridge in the winter. There are countless factors that can affect wine during storage. From avoiding UV rays to deciding the best place to put your wine cooler, these tips are sure to elongate the life of the fridge as well as protect your wine.
Although a wine cooler regulates the temperature for optimal storage conditions, many wine coolers may actually struggle to raise the temperature when it reaches freezing temperatures outside. To ensure that your wine cooler is operating at the correct temperature, ensure that the ambient temperature (the temperature in which you place the wine cooler) doesn’t fall below 4 or 5°C - or rise above 32°C.
Over the winter, it’s usually best to avoid storing your wine cooler in colder spaces such as garages, outhouses, or even open-spaced cellars. However, some wine coolers feature winter systems, which allow you to store your wine fridges in colder ambient temperatures - some of which can allow you to safely store your wine fridge in environments as cold as 0°C.
If you store your wine cooler at an ambient temperature of 0°C, then your wine will likely be stored at temperatures around 8°C. This should be okay for white and sparkling wines, but for reds, you want to reach a storage temperature of at least 11°C. To achieve this, you should ensure that the ambient temperature doesn’t drop below 3°C.
It’s not just cold ambient temperature you should take into consideration - you should also make sure that you don’t store your wine fridge in a space that’s too warm, even in the winter. Avoid storing your wine fridge next to appliances that give off heat - for example, your oven, dishwasher, washer, or dryer.
Just because it’s colder outside in the winter months, you shouldn’t forget about protecting your wine from UV rays. UV rays can still damage your wine in the winter, so make sure that your unit is fully UV-protected. If the wine fridge has glass doors, ensure that they are UV-treated, tinted, and/or feature a dual-pane. It’s also important to avoid incandescent lighting when you’re storing your wine collection - as this can cause damage to your wine’s flavour as well as impact the ambient temperature.
Many wine fridge brands will use LED lighting to light the interior of the unit to give you a clear view of your collection. The majority of bottles are tinted green, which helps to protect the wine from UV rays. However, many white wines and sparkling wines are particularly vulnerable to UV rays as they often come in a clear bottle.
Even if the cooler is UV-treated, it’s still best to avoid exposing it to sunlight. Firstly, it can raise the temperature of the fridge, and secondly, UV rays can damage the wine’s flavour profiles. Sunlight (UV rays) can affect the taste, appearance, and smell of your wine during storage.
If your wine is exposed to high volumes of sunlight, then it will undergo chemical reactions that age the wine much quicker. This can result in the wine tasting bitter, acidic, and generally unpleasant. UV rays can cause the wine’s natural flavour profiles to deteriorate, and cause the wine to decrease in value. If you’re investing in your wine (i.e storing your wine for ageing to sell at a higher price), then avoiding UV rays is key.
Humidity is another thing you should consider, especially in the colder months. Many people make the mistake of overlooking humidity when storing their wine collection - which results in their bottles being damaged and wine oxidising.
Your wine collection should be stored in the correct humidity levels - especially if you plan on ageing it. The optimal humidity levels for wine preservation is between 65% and 75%, so many wine fridges will regulate humidity levels within this zone.
Storing your wine in humidity levels above 75% can cause the labels to peel off the bottles - which can cause the wine to decrease in value. This is one of the worst things to happen if you’re investing in your wine. High humidity levels can also cause the wine to develop mould and mildew, which can mean you have to throw the bottle away.
The main reason that you shouldn’t store your wine in humid environments is that it can leave the cork too damp - which ultimately leads to oxidisation. Your wine should have a little humidity to ensure the cork has the correct level of moisture to stay in the bottleneck securely.
If humidity levels drop, the cork may dry out and slip out of place. This will expose your wine to oxygen and speed up chemical reactions that age the wine. Essentially, the wine won’t stay fresh for long and will start to taste unpleasant.
Thankfully, the majority of modern fridges have humidity control that regulates the humidity levels. Some will even have an alarm that will sound when humidity levels rise or drop above the desired range. Storing your wine at the right humidity levels and considering the other storage factors that can impact the quality of wine will ensure that your wine remains fresher for longer, ages well, and tastes as great as it should.
Many people forget to clean their wine fridges in the winter months and leave it until the spring and summer to give their fridges a deep clean. However, you should ensure your wine fridge is kept clean all year round. Giving your wine fridge a deep clean gives you a chance to identify any moisture built up or frost, which can occur when there are temperature regulation issues.
The best way to give your wine fridge a clean is to unplug the cooler from the wall socket and remove the entire contents - including shelves, if possible. However, when you remove your bottles, be sure to place them in a suitable environment (cool, dark, dry) until you’re ready to put them back. Wipe clean with a soft and clean cloth, and reinsert the shelves and then the contents. If you detect any problems, contact the manufacturer or hire a professional - messing with it yourself could void the warranty.