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Why Are Wine Bottles Stored on Their Sides?

Wine bottles sit on their sides in a wooden wine rack.

When you browse the wine aisles at your favorite grocery store or boutique shop, you likely see the bottles organized vertically, bottoms firmly on the shelf, and corked lids pointing upward. That’s normal, right? Well, despite bottles being displayed upright in stores, it’s actually not the best storage method.

Instead, you should be storing your wine on its sides, and yes, that’s exactly why wine racks are built that way.

What’s the reason for the side storage, and does it really even matter? It’s all about the cork (so if you’re working with screw-top wines, feel to store them any way you’d like). The cork helps to protect wine from oxygen. When the bottle is upright, the wine is no longer in contact with the cork. Since the cork doesn’t have the moisture from the wine, the bottle’s seal can loosen and oxygen can seep inside, spoiling the wine.

Storing wine on its side is a widely accepted standard. Think about wine fridges, cellars, and wine racks. All of them are designed so that you store your bottle on its side. But some call this rule into question.

According to Thrillist, Miguel Cabral, head of research and development at Amorim Cork, said this storage advice is a myth. Cabral claims a cork will never dry out to the point of allowing oxygen to entire a bottle. In fact, he claimed keeping the wine and cork together can make the cork deteriorate faster. He pointed to a 2005 study by the Australian Wine Research Institute that found a wetter cork didn’t guarantee a fresher wine.

Where does that leave you and your wine, though? Overall, despite the objections, storing your wine on its side is still the dominant piece of storage advice (and avoiding hot temperatures).

If you’re building quite the wine collection, you might want to invest in a wine rack or wine cooler to keep those bottles on their sides.

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