Even the most inexpensive wine can be a little high maintenance. ‘You should chill it – but not too much! Have it lying on its side – unless it’s Champagne! Store it somewhere cool and quiet – but not in your kitchen fridge where vibrations could mess with your wine!’ Wine is picky, but luckily, for many of us there’s a secret upside. If you live in a naturally moist area of the U.S., you’re in luck! It turns out a little bit of humidity is actually good for your wine.
The reason humidity is a wine positive is because it allows the cork to expand, keeping oxygen out of the bottle and preventing oxidation, which spoils the wine. That’s also why you’re supposed to lay most wines on their sides – so the wine will seep into the cork and keep it blocking out air.
However, you might be wondering why the humidity surrounding a bottle of wine matters, given that the humidity inside a bottle of unopened wine is 100%. The humidity on the other side of the cork matters too, because if a cork gets too dry, it can start to decompose. This puts your wine at risk for a few things. First of all, just storing a bottle of wine upright can allow the cork to shrink and encourage oxidation. So too can a dried out cork on the other end run the risk of exposing your wine to the air. Secondly, a cork that’s falling apart can make your wine tricky to open. Third, you might get dried cork remnants in your wine. Ick.
Now, don’t panic. Unless you live in a super dry area — and store your wine in a cool, temperature-stable place like a basement instead of a dedicated wine refrigerator — you’re probably not that at risk for your corks drying up. However, if you do happen to live in one of the world’s more arid regions, you might want to store your wine in a space with a humidifier, with the ideal humidity being around 70%. There’s no need to make your walls sweat, but a little bit of moisture will keep those corks plump and healthy, thereby keeping air out and preserving your wine. That is, unless you’d prefer to drink your vino purchases shortly after you buy them, which is also a solution.