Upright or on its side: A Theory

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aaronfullen
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Upright or on its side: A Theory

#1 Post by aaronfullen » October 21st, 2019, 12:48 pm

I know this topic comes up periodically and my take on things likely isn't novel. I've had trouble shaking the notion below for a couple days and wanted to run it past you and see if there's any real data on the topic (because I have zilch).

I was thinking about why we typically lay bottles on their side to age them (I do, too) and whether there's any data that supports supine bottles being any better than upright bottles over time.

I know we think we store them on their side to keep the cork wet and therefore prevent it from drying out. Maybe that's true. A couple thoughts on this about which I'd love this crew's opinion.

1) As collectors, we store bottles on their sides, ostensibly to keep the cork wet. Could it be that the real reason we store bottles on their side is because that's the way French chateaux/domaines have always done it in their cellars for hundreds of years and if it's good enough for them; it's good enough for us?

2) If mimicking winery cellar storage is the real reason we do it (I think it might be, because they must know best), then why do the wineries do it this way? Is it really to keep the corks wet?

3) Most (maybe all) of the first cellars where bottles of wine were kept to age were natural caves or excavated caves, all of which were made out of rock. Chiseling rock is a hell of a lot harder than carving/cutting wood. Clearly, making a shelf out of a piece of solid stone (or chiseling a shelf into the wall of a cave) is a hell of a lot harder than making them out of wood.

4) If the above is true, storing 1000 (or 5,000 or 15,000) bottles with the fewest number of shelves is optimal (less chisel time).

5) Wine bottles will stack laying on their sides. I don't know exactly how high (without breakage from the weight of other bottles) but I know it's at least six high as I've had them stacked this high on each other in my offsite locker at various times. Nothing broke. Wine bottles will not stack standing up. I tried this once in college and once was enough. Something broke.

6) Could it be that the reason we lay bottles on their sides is because 1000 years ago it was easier to make one large cutout in a wall of solid rock than it was to make multiple shelves out of that same piece of rock? Could it be that our penchant for laying wine down has more to do with the practicality of bulk storage a millenium ago than it does with assisting or shepherding the aging process?

I think (although I have no data) that I may be onto something. Storing bottles upright seems to me to be to be potentially superior. A few supporting points:

1) If the liquid is up against the cork in a wine bottle, the cork is moist. But wouldn't a cork be in a 99% relative humidity environment when standing up? It's a virtual vacuum in there and below about half an inch of air is liquid. Isn't the cork moist regardless?

2) TCA is still an issue. Some are more sensitive to it than others. When a wine is corked, it's from TCA on the cork. Wouldn't having the liquid in direct contact with an infected cork for a longer period of time make the taint worse? Let's say two corks are lousy with TCA. One cork is used as a closure for a bottle of wine stored on its side (direct contact with liquid). The other is used as a closure for a bottle of wine stored standing up (no direct contact). We age both bottles for twenty years. Upon opening, shouldn't we expect the former bottle to taste more "corked" than the latter? If not, why not?

3) Cork is a natural product. Just like a piece of paper, a blade of grass or my elbow (also natural products), it "tastes" like something, even if subtly. If the two bottles of wine in #2 above weren't lousy with TCA, shouldn't we expect the former wine to have more imparted "cork" taste than the latter? It seems so. Maybe the taste adds to the complexity of the wine and that's a feature and not a bug. But still, wine A has to taste corkier than wine B, right?

4) The surface area of the liquid exposed to air is larger in a bottle on its side than upright, right? If slow aging is the key, shouldn't we optimize for the minimum air contact surface area possible, assuming there is at least some part oxygen in the air trapped in the bottle?

OK, I'm done. Does anyone have any data on any of this? Think there's anything to my theory?

-af

(title updated to better reflect the post)

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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#2 Post by Nate Simon » October 21st, 2019, 2:59 pm

A great post. All good questions. Of note, there is ZERO evidence that the dogmatic practice of storing bottles on their sides is in anyway beneficial.
You alluded to the idea that humidity inside the bottle is already at a maximum, and therefore keeping the cork “wet“ by having the wine in contact with it makes no difference. I would also add that there may be a detrimental effect, in that the alcohol may contribute to gradual degradation of cork integrity.
Just another example of things that “everybody knows“ that, in fact, nobody knows, because they have not really been tested. This is true in wine, but in many other aspects of life as well.

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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#3 Post by Neal.Mollen » October 21st, 2019, 3:02 pm

how would you store hundreds of bottles upright?
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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#4 Post by Ian S » October 21st, 2019, 3:08 pm

Neal.Mollen wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 3:02 pm
how would you store hundreds of bottles upright?
Is that a serious question? Shelving. Just like in the store.
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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#5 Post by Neal.Mollen » October 21st, 2019, 3:12 pm

Ian S wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 3:08 pm
Neal.Mollen wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 3:02 pm
how would you store hundreds of bottles upright?
Is that a serious question? Shelving. Just like in the store.
I've never been in a store that stored hundreds of bottles vertically.
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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#6 Post by Nate Simon » October 21st, 2019, 3:16 pm

Neal.Mollen wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 3:12 pm
Ian S wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 3:08 pm
Neal.Mollen wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 3:02 pm
how would you store hundreds of bottles upright?
Is that a serious question? Shelving. Just like in the store.
I've never been in a store that stored hundreds of bottles vertically.
Bottles are stored vertically in most stores, at least on display shelves. The ones that aren’t on the shelf are stored in case boxes, which can be stored in any way desired.
The point is that the volume of the bottles is the same regardless of their orientation. If we decided that upright was preferable, shelving and racking would be available to accommodate that.

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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#7 Post by S. Stevenson » October 21st, 2019, 3:22 pm

Good points here. It's akin to the myth that many still adhere to is that wine needs to 'breath'.
No it doesn't. P&P.
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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#8 Post by F.Daner » October 21st, 2019, 3:37 pm

well it sure wouldn't be practical for a home cellar.
Nate Simon wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 3:16 pm
Neal.Mollen wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 3:12 pm
Ian S wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 3:08 pm


Is that a serious question? Shelving. Just like in the store.
I've never been in a store that stored hundreds of bottles vertically.
Bottles are stored vertically in most stores, at least on display shelves. The ones that aren’t on the shelf are stored in case boxes, which can be stored in any way desired.
The point is that the volume of the bottles is the same regardless of their orientation. If we decided that upright was preferable, shelving and racking would be available to accommodate that.
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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#9 Post by ybarselah » October 21st, 2019, 3:39 pm

it's insanely more efficient for storage - pic below from Beaucastel; you can stack as high, wide, and deep as you'd need. the rest of the analysis doesn't change for up and down.

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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#10 Post by Chris Seiber » October 21st, 2019, 3:41 pm

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=81670&p=1124951

I still wish there were a wine research lab out there willing to test and to validate or debunk these various "conventional wisdom" matters in wine.

I've loved reading about that in cooking. For example, it turns out that most of the cooking truisms about steak are incorrect, and a lot of people have wasted a lot of effort fretting about doing and avoiding certain things when it really was never necessary.

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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#11 Post by Neal.Mollen » October 21st, 2019, 3:47 pm

F.Daner wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 3:37 pm
well it sure wouldn't be practical for a home cellar.
Nate Simon wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 3:16 pm
Neal.Mollen wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 3:12 pm


I've never been in a store that stored hundreds of bottles vertically.
Bottles are stored vertically in most stores, at least on display shelves. The ones that aren’t on the shelf are stored in case boxes, which can be stored in any way desired.
The point is that the volume of the bottles is the same regardless of their orientation. If we decided that upright was preferable, shelving and racking would be available to accommodate that.
Yeah, this makes zero sense to me.
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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#12 Post by Jonathan Loesberg » October 21st, 2019, 3:51 pm

Wine wasn't stored in bottles until the 17th century, and those bottles were short and squat. Wine bottles didn't come in the current shape until the early 19th century, which means storing choices analogous to today's only go back that far. It may be that storage lying down is much more efficient, but I seriously doubt it has anything to do with the difficulty of cutting stone.

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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#13 Post by Alan Rath » October 21st, 2019, 3:54 pm

Chris Seiber wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 3:41 pm
I've loved reading about that in cooking. For example, it turns out that most of the cooking truisms about steak are incorrect, and a lot of people have wasted a lot of effort fretting about doing and avoiding certain things when it really was never necessary.
Very true. I learned years ago that it's OK to cut into a steak on the grill to see how it's doing.
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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#14 Post by Chr!s G|@rn3r » October 21st, 2019, 3:58 pm

Horizontal storage makes it easier to access any bottle at any time, so that part is better for relatively small/home collections.

That wouldn’t matter as much for large #s of the same bottle, so vertical may be better in this case if the theories mentioned by OP are true.

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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#15 Post by Jason T » October 21st, 2019, 4:16 pm

S. Stevenson wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 3:22 pm
Good points here. It's akin to the myth that many still adhere to is that wine needs to 'breath'.
No it doesn't. P&P.
Someone should start a thread on this, so we can debate it. [head-bang.gif]
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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#16 Post by James Billy » October 21st, 2019, 4:39 pm

Jonathan Loesberg wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 3:51 pm
Wine wasn't stored in bottles until the 17th century, and those bottles were short and squat. Wine bottles didn't come in the current shape until the early 19th century, which means storing choices analogous to today's only go back that far. It may be that storage lying down is much more efficient, but I seriously doubt it has anything to do with the difficulty of cutting stone.
Maybe true, but the main point of the OP is to question why bottles are stored on their side and whether it is to protect the seal, some other reason or a combination of reasons.

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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#17 Post by Nate Simon » October 21st, 2019, 5:32 pm

I’d actually like to see some investigation into whether storing on the side might be detrimental.

https://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2018/ ... scientist/

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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#18 Post by David Glasser » October 21st, 2019, 5:36 pm

Great post and questions, and something we debate every few years.

Horizontal storage is more space-efficient due to easier stacking. IMO that’s why it’s been done that way since bottle shapes evolved to an approximation of their current configuration.

Keeping corks moist was a secondary and later consideration that "made sense" to some. It is not supported by any empirical evidence or based on any significant theoretical advantage when one considers that the inner end of the cork is exposed to close to 100% humidity. The external aspect of the cork might become more brittle and difficult to remove, possibly increasing the risk of seal failure in a low humidity environment, but that is true whether the bottle is stored horizontally or vertically.

I don’t know about stone carving, but more bottles per cubic meter and easier stacking would seem to apply regardless of the cellar construction materials.

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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#19 Post by GregT » October 21st, 2019, 6:30 pm

There are a few threads on this subject. You should do a search.

Bottles are on the side because it's the most efficient way to stack them, using the least amount of space. They're built into wooden-shelved wine cellars with individual slots because again, it's the most efficient way to get to them easily. Upright on shelves is not as efficient as they're frequently different heights, and they are more apt to fall.

You don't store them on the side to keep the cork moist. Cork is waterproof. It's not a sponge. And if it isn't waterproof then your cork is compromised.

As mentioned, bottles were not stacked on their sides until they were mass-produced. That came about with Robert Mansell, who I've posted about before. Once you could mass produce bottles, you could mass produce stoppers. That's why we use cork. They weren't using bottles 1000 years ago so they weren't chiseling stone out of a mountain to make cellars for bottle-storage. Everything was stored in the cool area of the cellar if you had one - cheese, cabbage, beets, ale, wine, oil, ham, smoked fish, grain, etc.

But most people in Europe and elsewhere didn't live like that. They were peasants who lived in hovels and huts. If they were lucky, they had a little cave dug out of a hillside like you find all over Hungary and central Europe, or they had a little area under their hut, or they had an area next to a river. Same in the early colonies in the US. Most of the consumption of mead, ale, beer, and wine was by peasants, not by nobles, and neither group was generally storing it for aging purposes. They were just storing it until they could finish it.

Mansell lived in the 1600s. And even during his time, wine wasn't generally stored or sold in bottles. Wine has only been stored in bottles for about two-three hundred years. It was mainly sold in casks until the late 1600s to early 1700s. In fact, selling alcohol in glass containers was banned in various places from time to time because it is so easy to manipulate the shape to make you think you're getting more volume than you are.
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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#20 Post by Matthew King » October 21st, 2019, 7:37 pm

Alan Rath wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 3:54 pm
Chris Seiber wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 3:41 pm
I've loved reading about that in cooking. For example, it turns out that most of the cooking truisms about steak are incorrect, and a lot of people have wasted a lot of effort fretting about doing and avoiding certain things when it really was never necessary.
Very true. I learned years ago that it's OK to cut into a steak on the grill to see how it's doing.
Touch, my man. You should be able to tell how your steak is by a simple touch. For medium rare: You want it like the feel of your thumb at its base when pressed together against the forefinger! [cheers.gif]
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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#21 Post by Nathan Smyth » October 21st, 2019, 8:03 pm

S. Stevenson wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 3:22 pm
Good points here. It's akin to the myth that many still adhere to is that wine needs to 'breath'.
No it doesn't. P&P.
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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#22 Post by William Anzalone » October 21st, 2019, 8:51 pm

I assume this theory of upright bottles not adversely affecting a cork or the wine would also hold true for angled display shelves/racks. I've always been concerned about displaying a bottle that requires significant aging because of the lack of moisture on the cork but when I researched this topic I found minimal to no good information.

If anyone feels that it is not a good idea to display a bottle that requires significant aging on a display shelf please let me know. It's something I've contemplated for several years and ultimately I chose to only display bottles that don't require aging but I'd rather display a 1st growth Bordeaux or a great Napa Cab that requires cellaring that I won't be touching for many years.

My wine is stored in a Le Cache Cabinet so all wine is on its side except for the 4 display cradles I have in the unit. I may chose to change my display bottles based on this thread.

Thanks for raising the question and hope I didnt deviate to far from it.
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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#23 Post by Ian S » October 21st, 2019, 8:55 pm

Neal.Mollen wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 3:47 pm

Yeah, this makes zero sense to me.
I hope your wife packs the trunk when you go on vacation. [snort.gif] neener
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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#24 Post by K_F_o_l_e_y » October 21st, 2019, 9:08 pm

David Glasser wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 5:36 pm
Keeping corks moist was a secondary and later consideration that "made sense" to some. It is not supported by any empirical evidence or based on any significant theoretical advantage when one considers that the inner end of the cork is exposed to close to 100% humidity. The external aspect of the cork might become more brittle and difficult to remove, possibly increasing the risk of seal failure in a low humidity environment, but that is true whether the bottle is stored horizontally or vertically.
This paper would seem to disagree:

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs ... .tb10292.x

GregT wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 6:30 pm
You don't store them on the side to keep the cork moist. Cork is waterproof. It's not a sponge. And if it isn't waterproof then your cork is compromised.
This paper would seem to disagree (free download):

https://www.researchgate.net/publicatio ... nd_Ethanol
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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#25 Post by Scott G r u n e r » October 21st, 2019, 9:33 pm

5 and 1. More efficient storage and then mimicry plus other made up shit about wet corks, etc. occam’s razor and all
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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#26 Post by Yao C » October 21st, 2019, 10:01 pm

For the chemists out there: is it likely that avoiding wine/cork contact reduces tca contamination? I read somewhere that we can sense just a few ppb of TCA, so my intuition is that if a cork is bad the bottle has had it
Matthew King wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 7:37 pm
Alan Rath wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 3:54 pm
Chris Seiber wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 3:41 pm
I've loved reading about that in cooking. For example, it turns out that most of the cooking truisms about steak are incorrect, and a lot of people have wasted a lot of effort fretting about doing and avoiding certain things when it really was never necessary.
Very true. I learned years ago that it's OK to cut into a steak on the grill to see how it's doing.
Touch, my man. You should be able to tell how your steak is by a simple touch. For medium rare: You want it like the feel of your thumb at its base when pressed together against the forefinger! [cheers.gif]
I guess you could but there’s always probe thermometers :P
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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#27 Post by David Glasser » October 21st, 2019, 10:13 pm

K_F_o_l_e_y wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 9:08 pm
David Glasser wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 5:36 pm
Keeping corks moist was a secondary and later consideration that "made sense" to some. It is not supported by any empirical evidence or based on any significant theoretical advantage when one considers that the inner end of the cork is exposed to close to 100% humidity. The external aspect of the cork might become more brittle and difficult to remove, possibly increasing the risk of seal failure in a low humidity environment, but that is true whether the bottle is stored horizontally or vertically.
This paper would seem to disagree:

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs ... .tb10292.x

GregT wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 6:30 pm
You don't store them on the side to keep the cork moist. Cork is waterproof. It's not a sponge. And if it isn't waterproof then your cork is compromised.
This paper would seem to disagree (free download):

https://www.researchgate.net/publicatio ... nd_Ethanol
The first paper is highly suspect given the conclusion that screw-capped bottles oxidized faster than corked bottles. That runs counter to the mainstream literature. I have to wonder about the details of their methods.

Hard to make anything of the second paper from the abstract alone. Reading the full study, they looked at non-compressed corks, which isn’t the state they’re in when placed in a bottle. Nor does the paper lend perspective as to whether the transmission rates through the cork are meaningful with respect to wine aging.

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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#28 Post by Matthew King » October 21st, 2019, 10:45 pm

Yao C wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 10:01 pm
For the chemists out there: is it likely that avoiding wine/cork contact reduces tca contamination? I read somewhere that we can sense just a few ppb of TCA, so my intuition is that if a cork is bad the bottle has had it
Matthew King wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 7:37 pm
Alan Rath wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 3:54 pm

Very true. I learned years ago that it's OK to cut into a steak on the grill to see how it's doing.
Touch, my man. You should be able to tell how your steak is by a simple touch. For medium rare: You want it like the feel of your thumb at its base when pressed together against the forefinger! [cheers.gif]
I guess you could but there’s always probe thermometers :P
Caveman don’t need no stinkin’ thermometer! [training.gif]
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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#29 Post by Alan Rath » October 21st, 2019, 10:49 pm

Matthew King wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 7:37 pm
Alan Rath wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 3:54 pm
Chris Seiber wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 3:41 pm
I've loved reading about that in cooking. For example, it turns out that most of the cooking truisms about steak are incorrect, and a lot of people have wasted a lot of effort fretting about doing and avoiding certain things when it really was never necessary.
Very true. I learned years ago that it's OK to cut into a steak on the grill to see how it's doing.
Touch, my man. You should be able to tell how your steak is by a simple touch. For medium rare: You want it like the feel of your thumb at its base when pressed together against the forefinger! [cheers.gif]
Yep, I do that, but still like visual confirmation, especially on a thicker cut.

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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#30 Post by GregT » October 22nd, 2019, 12:24 am

Touch, my man. You should be able to tell how your steak is by a simple touch. For medium rare: You want it like the feel of your thumb at its base when pressed together against the forefinger!
The problem with that is the same as the idea of different glasses "delivering" wine to a particular place on your tongue. It makes no sense. My hand is twice the size of my wife's. Which hand should we use? I can promise you they're quite different.
David Glasser wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 10:13 pm
by David Glasser » Tue Oct 22, 2019 5:13 am

K_F_o_l_e_y wrote: ↑
Tue Oct 22, 2019 4:08 am

David Glasser wrote: ↑
Tue Oct 22, 2019 12:36 am
Keeping corks moist was a secondary and later consideration that "made sense" to some. It is not supported by any empirical evidence or based on any significant theoretical advantage when one considers that the inner end of the cork is exposed to close to 100% humidity. The external aspect of the cork might become more brittle and difficult to remove, possibly increasing the risk of seal failure in a low humidity environment, but that is true whether the bottle is stored horizontally or vertically.

This paper would seem to disagree:

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs ... .tb10292.x

GregT wrote: ↑
Tue Oct 22, 2019 1:30 am
You don't store them on the side to keep the cork moist. Cork is waterproof. It's not a sponge. And if it isn't waterproof then your cork is compromised.

This paper would seem to disagree (free download):

https://www.researchgate.net/publicatio ... nd_Ethanol

The first paper is highly suspect given the conclusion that screw-capped bottles oxidized faster than corked bottles. That runs counter to the mainstream literature. I have to wonder about the details of their methods.

Hard to make anything of the second paper from the abstract alone. Reading the full study, they looked at non-compressed corks, which isn’t the state they’re in when placed in a bottle. Nor does the paper lend perspective as to whether the transmission rates through the cork are meaningful with respect to wine aging.
And from the paper:

Testing more samples has a limited interest, because cork permeability shows a high (natural) variability. Even the permeability for water and ethanol vapors “normalized to He ”showed considerable variability. Therefore, the results obtained with different permeant species should be compared within the same sample rather among samples

The main problem with cork is captured right there. Each cork is unique. I would like to know that all the closures on my wine bottles will behave the same, rather than know that each bottle will experience a unique life.
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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#31 Post by larry schaffer » October 22nd, 2019, 3:55 am

Nate Simon wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 5:32 pm
I’d actually like to see some investigation into whether storing on the side might be detrimental.

https://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2018/ ... scientist/
Yep, that was the article I was going to mention - and why no one has commented on your post as of yet is a bit ludicrous.

This was research done by one of the leading cork companies - and their conclusion is that it is not necessary to store them on their side due to the high moisture level in these bottles.

And they point out that due to this moisture level, transference of TCA will still occur, so this is no way to reduce that risk.

Anecdotally, I have stored a number of bottles standing up for the last 10 years or so and the wines have all been sound - the corks, unfortunately, need to be taken out with ah-so's as they are more 'brittle' than they probably should be.

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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#32 Post by Robert.A.Jr. » October 22nd, 2019, 4:27 am

larry schaffer wrote:
October 22nd, 2019, 3:55 am


Anecdotally, I have stored a number of bottles standing up for the last 10 years or so and the wines have all been sound - the corks, unfortunately, need to be taken out with ah-so's as they are more 'brittle' than they probably should be.
That anecdote suggests to me that upright storage for lengthy periods increases risk. If you are finding corks brittle after 10 years, will that even be worse in 20, 25+ years, the ideal period for fine Bordeaux?

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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#33 Post by Neal.Mollen » October 22nd, 2019, 4:36 am

Ian S wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 8:55 pm
Neal.Mollen wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 3:47 pm

Yeah, this makes zero sense to me.
I hope your wife packs the trunk when you go on vacation. [snort.gif] neener
You pack your sweaters standing up? Post a pic of your suitcase.
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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#34 Post by Ian S » October 22nd, 2019, 4:39 am

Neal.Mollen wrote:
October 22nd, 2019, 4:36 am
Ian S wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 8:55 pm
Neal.Mollen wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 3:47 pm

Yeah, this makes zero sense to me.
I hope your wife packs the trunk when you go on vacation. [snort.gif] neener
You pack your sweaters standing up? Post a pic of your suitcase.
If my sweaters were in a rigid container sealed with a cork, and space demanded that I pack these containers upright, then yes.
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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#35 Post by Neal.Mollen » October 22nd, 2019, 4:41 am

Ian S wrote:
October 22nd, 2019, 4:39 am
Neal.Mollen wrote:
October 22nd, 2019, 4:36 am
Ian S wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 8:55 pm


I hope your wife packs the trunk when you go on vacation. [snort.gif] neener
You pack your sweaters standing up? Post a pic of your suitcase.
If my sweaters were in a rigid container sealed with a cork, and space demanded that I pack these containers upright, then yes.
The second clause assumes away the question, doesn't it? The consensus(-1) here seems to be that laying bottles down is vastly more space efficient.
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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#36 Post by larry schaffer » October 22nd, 2019, 4:42 am

Robert.A.Jr. wrote:
October 22nd, 2019, 4:27 am
larry schaffer wrote:
October 22nd, 2019, 3:55 am


Anecdotally, I have stored a number of bottles standing up for the last 10 years or so and the wines have all been sound - the corks, unfortunately, need to be taken out with ah-so's as they are more 'brittle' than they probably should be.
That anecdote suggests to me that upright storage for lengthy periods increases risk. If you are finding corks brittle after 10 years, will that even be worse in 20, 25+ years, the ideal period for fine Bordeaux?
Robert,

Good point - but I guess I should clarify. These corks have no issue when removed with an ah so but the bottoms of the longer corks tend to 'separate' when using a traditional corkscrew. In many cases, we're talking 20-25 year old wines already - and even in perfect conditions, these would need to be removed with a durand or ah so anyway, right?

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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#37 Post by Ian S » October 22nd, 2019, 4:48 am

Neal.Mollen wrote:
October 22nd, 2019, 4:41 am
Ian S wrote:
October 22nd, 2019, 4:39 am
Neal.Mollen wrote:
October 22nd, 2019, 4:36 am


You pack your sweaters standing up? Post a pic of your suitcase.
If my sweaters were in a rigid container sealed with a cork, and space demanded that I pack these containers upright, then yes.
The second clause assumes away the question, doesn't it? The consensus(-1) here seems to be that laying bottles down is vastly more space efficient.
No, it doesn't, and no, I don't see a majority consensus except for me. Please go on thinking you're correct and superior though.

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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#38 Post by Neal.Mollen » October 22nd, 2019, 4:53 am

Ian S wrote:
October 22nd, 2019, 4:48 am
Neal.Mollen wrote:
October 22nd, 2019, 4:41 am
Ian S wrote:
October 22nd, 2019, 4:39 am


If my sweaters were in a rigid container sealed with a cork, and space demanded that I pack these containers upright, then yes.
The second clause assumes away the question, doesn't it? The consensus(-1) here seems to be that laying bottles down is vastly more space efficient.
No, it doesn't, and no, I don't see a majority consensus except for me. Please go on thinking you're correct and superior though.

Solicitors. rolleyes blahblah
More barrister than solicitor, actually, but ok. I see that at a minimum, Jonathan, David, Greg, and Scott agree with me, but with my diminished reading skills I have been unable to find a comparable groundswell for the efficiency of vertical storage.

Anyway, I now take it that the OP was asking theoretically whether there are reasons beyond efficiency for horizontal storage, which is a very different question on which I have no opinion
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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#39 Post by James Billy » October 22nd, 2019, 5:44 am

Neal.Mollen wrote:
October 22nd, 2019, 4:53 am
Ian S wrote:
October 22nd, 2019, 4:48 am
Neal.Mollen wrote:
October 22nd, 2019, 4:41 am

The second clause assumes away the question, doesn't it? The consensus(-1) here seems to be that laying bottles down is vastly more space efficient.
No, it doesn't, and no, I don't see a majority consensus except for me. Please go on thinking you're correct and superior though.

Solicitors. rolleyes blahblah
More barrister than solicitor, actually, but ok. I see that at a minimum, Jonathan, David, Greg, and Scott agree with me, but with my diminished reading skills I have been unable to find a comparable groundswell for the efficiency of vertical storage.

Anyway, I now take it that the OP was asking theoretically whether there are reasons beyond efficiency for horizontal storage, which is a very different question on which I have no opinion
No, nothing to do with storage efficiency.

From OP:

"whether there's any data that supports supine bottles being any better than upright bottles over time."

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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#40 Post by K_F_o_l_e_y » October 22nd, 2019, 6:53 am

larry schaffer wrote:
October 22nd, 2019, 3:55 am
Nate Simon wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 5:32 pm
I’d actually like to see some investigation into whether storing on the side might be detrimental.

https://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2018/ ... scientist/
Yep, that was the article I was going to mention - and why no one has commented on your post as of yet is a bit ludicrous.
Actually, I was in effect commenting on the assertion in the article, considering a quick google search easily found several papers that disagreed with the single paper cited in the article. I only bothered to post a link to one. But it's pointless to post and discuss them all, since the devil is in the details, and no matter the scientific question, you'll be able to find convincing research on both sides of most arguments. Not to mention, this is a wine board, and as we all know from experience, people will believe whatever they want to believe about wine, no matter what the science, or anybody else, says!

As a practicing scientist, my policy is never to discuss religion, politics or wine in mixed company. It will only get me in trouble (particularly after the second bottle). [snort.gif]
Last edited by K_F_o_l_e_y on October 22nd, 2019, 9:28 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#41 Post by Otto Forsberg » October 22nd, 2019, 7:09 am

aaronfullen wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 12:48 pm
I think (although I have no data) that I may be onto something. Storing bottles upright seems to me to be to be potentially superior. A few supporting points:

1) If the liquid is up against the cork in a wine bottle, the cork is moist. But wouldn't a cork be in a 99% relative humidity environment when standing up? It's a virtual vacuum in there and below about half an inch of air is liquid. Isn't the cork moist regardless?
There is definitely no vacuum whatsoever in the bottle. If there was, the wine would be boiling. However, research suggests that you are correct in that the cork should be moist even when keeping the bottle standing upright. However, there seems to be something else beyond that, since many bottles that have been lying horizontally seem to have more elastic corks than wines that have been kept for the same time standing vertically, resulting in tougher corks that have lost some of their elasticity. It might be that keeping the wine-side part moist isn't enough.
2) TCA is still an issue. Some are more sensitive to it than others. When a wine is corked, it's from TCA on the cork. Wouldn't having the liquid in direct contact with an infected cork for a longer period of time make the taint worse? Let's say two corks are lousy with TCA. One cork is used as a closure for a bottle of wine stored on its side (direct contact with liquid). The other is used as a closure for a bottle of wine stored standing up (no direct contact). We age both bottles for twenty years. Upon opening, shouldn't we expect the former bottle to taste more "corked" than the latter? If not, why not?
Research tells that TCA can migrate from the cork to the wine from without any liquid contact, apparently thanks to the high humidity in the bottle. Furthermore, wine is going to slosh around in the bottle and most likely is kept horizontally in the winery and in the shop before arriving to you, so if the cork has TCA, the wine is already faulty at this point.
3) Cork is a natural product. Just like a piece of paper, a blade of grass or my elbow (also natural products), it "tastes" like something, even if subtly. If the two bottles of wine in #2 above weren't lousy with TCA, shouldn't we expect the former wine to have more imparted "cork" taste than the latter? It seems so. Maybe the taste adds to the complexity of the wine and that's a feature and not a bug. But still, wine A has to taste corkier than wine B, right?
This is correct. Some research has been done on this subject and apparently corks do impart a little bit of taste to the wine. Furthermore, they also seem to "suck" some aromatics out from the wine as well. I remember reading that synthetic corks were like "aromatic sponges" and glass closure had least impact.
4) The surface area of the liquid exposed to air is larger in a bottle on its side than upright, right? If slow aging is the key, shouldn't we optimize for the minimum air contact surface area possible, assuming there is at least some part oxygen in the air trapped in the bottle?
You are correct in that the surface is bigger when bottles are kept horizontally. However, this would be an issue only if there was constant exchange of O2 molecules. If you are going to keep the bottles for a long time in a cellar, the oxygen that is trapped in the bottle is going to get into the wine, no matter if you keep the wine standing up or lying on its side.

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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#42 Post by Nathan Smyth » October 22nd, 2019, 8:45 am

If you're living in an earthquake zone, such as Greece, or Italy, or Southeastern France, then when the ground starts shaking, it seems like upright glass bottles would be at a much greater risk of falling and cracking.

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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#43 Post by Michae1 P0wers » October 22nd, 2019, 9:11 am

Robert.A.Jr. wrote:
October 22nd, 2019, 4:27 am
larry schaffer wrote:
October 22nd, 2019, 3:55 am


Anecdotally, I have stored a number of bottles standing up for the last 10 years or so and the wines have all been sound - the corks, unfortunately, need to be taken out with ah-so's as they are more 'brittle' than they probably should be.
That anecdote suggests to me that upright storage for lengthy periods increases risk. If you are finding corks brittle after 10 years, will that even be worse in 20, 25+ years, the ideal period for fine Bordeaux?
I agree with this. There seems to be some moisture wicking from corks in contact with the liquid, and they remain more pliable. Otto and Larry both mention corks stored upright being more brittle, which would seem to relate to a much higher degree of compromised corks over time. Another consideration is cellar humidity. If your cellar is particularly humid this may not be an issue, but if it's dry, or relatively dry part of the year for instance, they may dry out faster from the top if not in contact. Hard to imagine why one wouldn't store bottles on their side.

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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#44 Post by GregT » October 22nd, 2019, 12:20 pm

Again, why would they dry out from the top, any more than the top would become damp from the bottom? That's not how cork cells work. Imagine a bunch of balloons in a big tube standing up. You pop some of the balloons on the top and that has what effect on the balloons on the bottom? None. Same thing if you wet the balloons on the bottom. Those balloons are like cork cells.

The reason they use cork is because back in the 1600s there was no material that could be compressed, put into a bottle, and then spring back into shape. The tolerances of the bottles weren't as accurate as they are today, and may have been off by a millimeter or more - I have no idea. But there was no other material available that had the properties of cork. The cork cells are like waxy little balloons filled with air. An ideal cork for a wine stopper should not allow communication from one end to the other. The communication is through channels between the cells, so the longer the cork, the less likely that there will be comunication.

Also, once cork is boiled, its permeability to gas is greatly reduced. So when cork is stripped from the trees, it's stored in big slabs that are then boiled before the corks are punched out.

There are articles dating back to at least the 1880s regarding cork's permeability to air. If pressure is applied, air can find its way from one side of a piece of cork to another, but in a wine cellar, there is no such pressure and the size of the cork is more substantial than that used in the trials.

Here's a cross section of cork cells:
cork cells.jpg
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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#45 Post by Alan Rath » October 22nd, 2019, 12:37 pm

GregT wrote:
October 22nd, 2019, 12:20 pm
Again, why would they dry out from the top, any more than the top would become damp from the bottom? That's not how cork cells work. Imagine a bunch of balloons in a big tube standing up. You pop some of the balloons on the top and that has what effect on the balloons on the bottom? None. Same thing if you wet the balloons on the bottom. Those balloons are like cork cells.
Another way to look at it: If the outside (or middle, for that matter) of the cork needs moisture wicked out from inside the bottle to stay "good", that's a bad sign for the integrity of that cork. Can you imagine what the ullage of a bottle would be if that moisture was being wicked away over a decade or two?
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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#46 Post by K_F_o_l_e_y » October 22nd, 2019, 1:36 pm

It's great to know how things work, but that is often associated with ignoring or discounting evidence to the contrary.

A common problem in science.
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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#47 Post by Alan Rath » October 22nd, 2019, 2:50 pm

K_F_o_l_e_y wrote:
October 22nd, 2019, 1:36 pm
It's great to know how things work, but that is often associated with ignoring or discounting evidence to the contrary.

A common problem in science.
I would argue that it's much more common in wine to ignore or discount science when it disagrees with "conventional wisdom". Storing bottles on their sides isn't "evidence" of anything, it's just conventional wisdom.
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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#48 Post by GregT » October 22nd, 2019, 2:58 pm

I totally agree with Ken regarding how things work but I don't see the evidence to the contrary.

Alan has the better point here. When it comes to wine, or at least wine customers, science is often out the window and superstition reigns.
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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#49 Post by John Morris » October 22nd, 2019, 5:05 pm

aaronfullen wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 12:48 pm
3) Most (maybe all) of the first cellars where bottles of wine were kept to age were natural caves or excavated caves, all of which were made out of rock. Chiseling rock is a hell of a lot harder than carving/cutting wood. Clearly, making a shelf out of a piece of solid stone (or chiseling a shelf into the wall of a cave) is a hell of a lot harder than making them out of wood.

. . . . 6) Could it be that the reason we lay bottles on their sides is because 1000 years ago it was easier to make one large cutout in a wall of solid rock than it was to make multiple shelves out of that same piece of rock? Could it be that our penchant for laying wine down has more to do with the practicality of bulk storage a millenium ago than it does with assisting or shepherding the aging process?
Cellars with flat walls constructed of stone and mortar date back to pre-Christian times, so the idea that most wine was stored in caves where it was easiest to carve a ledge is just fantasy.
aaronfullen wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 12:48 pm
5) Wine bottles will stack laying on their sides. I don't know exactly how high (without breakage from the weight of other bottles) but I know it's at least six high as I've had them stacked this high on each other in my offsite locker at various times. Nothing broke. Wine bottles will not stack standing up. I tried this once in college and once was enough. Something broke.
Had you been drinking? neener

Yes, they will. You just need a flat surface on each layer and some frame to make sure the weight doesn't force the bottles outwards. Have you ever seen wine glasses stacked high in a store like that?

It's just a hunch, but I would guess that an upright bottle will support much more weight for its surface area than a bottle on its side. But this wouldn't be as efficient space-wise as stacking them on their sides alternating nose in, nose out.
Jonathan Loesberg wrote:
October 21st, 2019, 3:51 pm
Wine wasn't stored in bottles until the 17th century, and those bottles were short and squat. Wine bottles didn't come in the current shape until the early 19th century, which means storing choices analogous to today's only go back that far. It may be that storage lying down is much more efficient, but I seriously doubt it has anything to do with the difficulty of cutting stone.
An important point!

You wonder how well the bottles stacked on their sides before bottle-making was industrialized and bottles were uniform in size and shape.
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Re: Upright or on its side: A Theory

#50 Post by PaulMills » October 22nd, 2019, 5:11 pm

I have heard that champagne should be stored vertically and the carbonation helps keep the cork wet. I do not see there being any difference in the liquid surface when a wine has been sitting for a day, a week, a year. I think wines and bubbly will be fine vertical.
The issue is storage convenience. Horizontal storage of one of each bottle is much easier than vertical storage of one of each on the same depth shelf.

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