Enjoying a glass of wine you just poured or knowing that the wine you bought as an investment is only improving with age, are both important for wine lovers.
The quality of a wine is greatly influenced by how it is stored. Some traditionalists swear by storing wine bottles on their side, and there are plenty of wine racks built just for that.
Others store wine upright, lining their bottles upright in dining rooms, kitchens or wine cellars.
Wine retailers tend to do a mix with some storing bottles on their side and others upright. When wines are shipped, they are placed upright in boxes.
So, what’s the best way to store wine, upright or sideways? If you’re wondering whether your wine should be perpendicular to the floor or parallel, keep reading.
Why Do We Worry About Storing Wine Upright?
Oxygen can turn a great wine into vinegar, so wine lovers worry about oxygenation if a wine is stored upright. History and science both have perspectives on the best way to store wine.
History Favors Storing Wine on its Side
The traditional storage of wine on its side keeps the natural cork that seals the wine bottle moist. A dry cork is more likely to shrink and allow oxygen through to the wine. Even a little oxygen can change the character and flavor of a wine. Over time, oxygenation will turn your bottle of white wine into a bottle of white wine vinegar.
This is why wine cellars, wine refrigerators, and wine racks are often designed to hold wine bottles on their sides. So, if you have your best bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon on their side, don’t rush to put them upright. Just keep reading!
Science Favors Storing Wine Upright
Winemaking has changed a little over time, with synthetic corks and screwtops taking the place of corks on wines in all price ranges. These take away the danger of a natural cork drying out and allowing oxygenation to occur.
A 2005 study by the Australian Wine Research Institute tested these methods of sealing wine bottles. Some of the bottles of Riesling and Chardonnay were stored sideways, and others were upright. Researchers found that being stored upright did not affect wine quality when the bottles had either synthetic corks or screw tops.
Another note on white wines is that Rieslings, Chardonnays, Pinot Grigios, and Moscatos are best enjoyed sooner rather than later. This is because white wines will last unopened about one to two years after the date on the bottle.
So What’s Most Important?
Does it matter whether you store your wines sideways or upright? Not really. Even if you store white wines bottled with natural corks upright, it shouldn’t oxygenate if you open and consume the bottle within a year or two.
Other factors besides storing a bottle upright instead of on its side can influence a wine’s quality. For example, high temperatures, direct sunlight, and vibrations can be damaging to wines.
Chilling red wine for an extended period can damage it, as can storing it in a warm area, making for a jammy flavor.
Chill wine close to when you plan to drink it. Once you’ve opened a bottle of white wine, store it in the refrigerator, so you enjoy a glass later with little change to the wine’s flavor.
Wine lovers are wise to pay attention to how their wines are stored. Investment-quality fine wines stored for decades should be stored sideways to keep the natural cork in the bottle moist and prevent oxygen from making its way into the wine.
Store wines at home upright or sideways, but also pay attention to temperature, light, and other factors to keep them at their best.