Why Are Wine Bottles Stored on Their Side?

Some peculiarities of the wine world can be chalked up to tradition. The storage of wine in bottles, for instance, is really a holdover from a time when glass bottles were the best storage method.

In truth, many students of wine feel that wine would be best stored in plastic containers inside of a box — that’s right, the optimum wine storage method would be in a box. These days, most wine that comes in a box is of an extremely low quality and the box is seen as more of a convenience tool than a storage tool. Most winemakers would never agree to storing their wine in such a “tacky” method, even though storage in a box such as the one your great aunt has in her fridge would be far safer for the wine than its pretty glass bottle.

Tradition In Wine Storage

One tradition in wine storage that makes a ton of sense is the storing of wine bottles on their side, rather than wine-bottles-side

neck up. Why are wine bottles stored on their sides?

There are at least two good reasons, only one of which has anything to do with preserving the wine itself.

Oxygen in Wine

Wine’s worst enemy is oxygen. When wine is being made, special measures are taken to ensure that oxygen doesn’t enter the product. A device used by winemakers allows carbon dioxide to escape the fermenting liquid while keeping oxygen from entering and oxidizing the wine. Once a wine is bottled, cork (or simulated cork) is placed in the neck of the bottle to keep oxygen out, although by this point the release of carbon dioxide gas is not a problem.

Wine Cork

Cork is a unique wood, in that it is pliable and will expand to almost completely seal off the neck of the wine bottle. Simulated corks are made to imitate this expanding action. Unfortunately, no cork, simulated or not, is perfect.

If a cork is allowed to dry up, it will shrink and pockets will form around the edge where it meets the glass bottle, allowing oxygen to enter. Most wines that are being aged are rather valuable, especially to the collector aging them, and this little trick of nature will put a frown on any wine collector’s face. The best way to avoid this drying action is to store the bottle “on its side”, so that the wine comes into contact with the cork. This prevents the cork from drying and shrinking or slipping.

Unfortunately, if the cork is tainted (a rare but nasty occurrence), this contact with the wine will only speed up the tainting process, ruining the wine. However, it is best to take the (very slight) risk of tainting your stored wine, and keep the wine in contact with the cork. A cork is much more likely to dry up and shrink than it is to experience tainting.

Practical Reason For Storing A Bottle On Its Side

Another practical reason for storing a bottle on its side is a matter of space. If you store wines sitting up, you’ll have less space and be able to store less wine. Also, it may be easier to read a wine’s label if the bottle is lying on its back — the label will show up rather than showing out, causing you to kneel or alter the angle of your head in order to see what your choices are.

If you want to enjoy your wine for years to come, do what serious collectors do — store your wine on its side. Remember, a wet cork is a happy cork.

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