Storing Wine Upright? What You Need to Know

16th June 2021

home champagne storage

Wine storage has been a debate since the dawn of corked wine bottles. Should the bottle be kept upright or on its side?

Conventional wisdom says that storing the bottle on its side is the best way to keep it fresh. Here’s why that’s not entirely true.

The Historic Reason for Side Storage
We’ve been storing our fine wine on its side essentially since we started bottling it for household use. The modern wine rack is essentially the same as it was in the 18th century; designated slots hold the wine on its side, with the cork lowered.

This was done because of a theory that the cork, being a porous material, would dry out if the wine was stored upright. If it were to dry out, the seal that it forms with the bottle would weaken or potentially break, letting oxygen into the bottle and cause the wine to oxidize.

Wine lovers so fear this oxidation that it has a name – ‘corking’.

Modern Science Begs to Differ
Modern scientists have said that the humidity inside a wine bottle is constant regardless of whether it’s stored upright or on its side; the seal is airtight – evaporated moisture isn’t going anywhere but into the cork.

The cork is unlikely to evaporate even in a dry room because of this internal moisture concentration. Thus, the secondary myth that your wine cellar needs to be damp is missing the point. It needs to be cool, but overly damp is not necessary or desirable.

All of this isn’t even new information. Studies proving the effectiveness of a cork regardless of its orientation have been around since at least 2005. Still, it’s hard to break hundreds of years of superstition.

More Scientific Reasons to Leave Your Bottles Upright

On top of this, wine is no longer expected to age in the bottle. Most wines are scientifically designed to go through a slow aging process long before entering their final bottle, and the sealing stops that process in its tracks.

If you’re still worried about keeping your corks moist, here’s another fact. Most modern wine bottlers don’t even use real cork anymore. They use a synthetic material called polyethylene, which is a particularly stretchy and bouncy plastic. It’s incapable of drying out in any circumstances.

If you want to continue side storage, that’s fine. However, if it is inconvenient, you can feel good about not doing it. Besides, traditional wine racks take up quite a lot of space. They’re also expensive.

Putting aside the issue of putting bottles on their sides, here’s what is essential scientifically to preserve its flavor. These are the three essential storage tips for modern wine:

  • Keep your wine in a dark room. Light passing through the bottle can cause a breakdown in the wine’s chemical composition that changes its flavor.
  • Keep reds at a stable room temperature. Fine red wines may deteriorate if they get too cold.
  • Keep whites cold. White wine best retains its flavor when chilled.

As long as you’re doing that, your wine should be perfectly fine. You can store your wine upright for as long as you want to without worrying about it.

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