Wine Storage FAQ: Why Is Wine Stored on Its Side?

If you’re like most wine collectors, you know wine should be stored on its side. So, each time you bring home a new bottle of oaky pinot or an award-winning cabernet, you dutifully place it on its side next to your other wines.

But have you ever wondered the reason behind this rule? And if it’s so important to store wine on its side, why do grocers and wine shops display wine vertically?

We answer these and other essential questions below and tackle the best way to store wine (hint: with wine racks designed just for this purpose).

Why should wine be stored on its side?

Oxygen and wine have a love-hate relationship. Without some oxygen, wine couldn’t age properly and turn into the sumptuous pinots, cabs, and Bordeauxs you know and love. But too much oxygen will turn your prized vintages into vinegar.

This is where the cork comes in. It keeps out excess oxygen and protects your wine. But the cork needs to be kept moist to do its job properly.

When bottles are stored upright, the cork doesn’t make contact with the wine. Over time, the cork can dry out and shrink. This lets air into the bottle, which can cause your wine to prematurely age. The cork may also crumble when you try to remove it, leaving you with a mess.

A moist cork still lets in some oxygen via the pores in the material—but just the right amount to help your wine age well. It’s a tried-and-true system that has been used for centuries.

So, why do wine shops and grocers store wine upright?  

It takes weeks or months of standing upright for the cork in a new bottle of wine to start drying out or showing signs of aging.

Grocers, liquor stores, and wine shops with quick turnover will typically store bottles upright to save space, knowing they won’t have the bottles in their stock for very long.

Should I avoid buying wines that have been stored upright?

If you’re buying a recently released bottle, it’s probably not an issue if the grocer or wine shop displays it upright. For special bottles, look for a wine shop that knows their stuff and gives special care to their wines.

Can wine with a screw top be stored upright?

Many winemakers are now using screw caps to avoid cork taint. They’ve even experimented with permeable materials that allow some air infiltration to help wine age properly.

If you plan on drinking wine in a screw top bottle within the next 12 months, it’s probably not necessary to lay a bottle on its side. If you plan to cellar the wine for longer, however, storing the bottle on its side is preferred, since it allows for better air exchange through the seal.

How can I tell if my wine has gone bad?

Your nose knows. If you smell vinegar or a sour or sharp smell, your wine has probably gone south. If you notice discoloration or cloudiness, this is also a sign your wine has gone bad. White wines darken and reds turn brown. Cloudiness indicates bacterial growth.

Finally, there’s the taste test. If the flavor is dull or flat or has a sharp or bitter edge, your vino has likely taken a wrong turn.

Find the Perfect Wine Storage Solution at Wine Racks America

The best way to store wine is on its side with racks specifically designed for this purpose.

Wine Racks America is your trusted source for wine storage solutions. We manufacture and distribute a huge selection of modular wood wine racks and metal racking systems from trusted names in the industry. Our expert team also offers custom wine cellar design services.

Get in touch with our team for helpful advice and information about our kits and custom wine storage systems.

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