We purchased a refrigerator to store our wine in, but the temp. is 47 degrees. We cannot get the refrigerator to go any higher… Is that too cold to age wine?
Thank you for this great question.
You are correct in assuming that temperature does make a difference when aging wine. But having said this, most home winemakers store their wine at room temperature or basement temperature and do perfectly fine. But if you want to try aging your wine in a refrigerator, it is possible under certain situations.
Temperature affects a wine by changing how fast or slow it ages. The cooler the temperature, the slower it will age. The warmer the temperature, the faster it will age.
Aging is critical to a wine. It is the time when a series of enzymatic activities occur that cause a wine to become more pleasant. It will have better body structure, a fruitier bouquet, and more complex, layered flavors. So you’d think that you would want your wine to age faster so that it could taste better sooner, but this is really not the case. While wine does get better with age, there is also a life-cycle that needs to be consider.
A wine will typically improve for a period of time, then somewhat plateau in its improvement. Eventually, there will come a time when the wine will start to degrade in quality at a very, very slow pace. It will start to become flabby, lifeless, then eventually, unacceptable to drink. So while warmer temperature will cause the wine to become better sooner, it will also shorten its lifespan.
A wine may plateau in quality in 6 months. Other wines might take 6 years. A lot of this has to do with the wine itself, and of course, the temperature at which it is being stored. Its body, flavor and structure all play a role in determining how long a life-cycle the wine will have.
Just how high a wine will plateau in quality is up to the wine, but how fast and long it stays at this plateau is up to the keeper of the wine and the temperature they decide at which to store the wine.
All of the above applies equally to commercially made and homemade wines. Most wine experts agree that 55°F. is a good temperature to stay with when aging wine for the long hall. This means that aging your wine in a refrigerator may not be practical for you, but it would not be a disaster to do so. It just may take longer than what is practical for the wine to age.
One way to ultimately resolve this issue is to purchase a power-interrupt thermostat. This is an item that is put in between the refrigerator plug and the wall outlet. It has a probe that goes inside the refrigerator to monitor temperature. Once the refrigerator temperature reaches the setting on the thermostat it will interrupt the power. I would almost call this a necessity for anyone who is planning on aging wine in a refrigerator.
Happy Wine Making,
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.