I once had a liquor store owner tell me about this. Don’t know if it is myth or true, but he was critical one of his competitors because they would sell some of their better wines with the bottle standing up. We are in the Denver area, roughly 5280 feet above sea level. You can only imagine what the bottles go through over time in most stores. Is there any environmental that can happen to a wine over time standing up vs. lying down? I know a cork can dry out, but what actually happens to a wine? Can it develop a more vinegar taste over time when standing up? I have a general rule that I developed from my personal experiences that if I see a wine older than 2009 standing up, I won’t buy it. That may be a bad perception from bad luck though.
The only concern I’m aware of regarding standing bottles is the need to keep the corks moist from the inside to preserve the seal. If the cork dries out, air can leak in and eventually spoil the wine. I think this would take quite a while. I think several months standing up cannot hurt a wine.
I’ve also been told that it is ok for Port and sparkling wine to stand up for much longer periods because the higher alcohol in the first and the carbonation in the 2nd will make drying out less likely. I do not state this as fact.
I see many fine wine retailers with racking that has one bottle standing in front with the rest lying down behind. That seems fine to me for recent releases.
I’ve never heard of anything other than the cork drying out as a problem. I suppose it’s next to impossible to know just how long a bottle has been standing up, though, and that can be dicey. But it goes hand in hand with finding retailers you learn to trust.
I notice that Total Wine has a number of their wines laying flat in bins, but most are standing. I’m thinking only a retailer with an airport hanger-size space (like them) really has the room to keep all their wine lying down anyway. Even the ‘stack’ stores here have most open boxes vertical. Just easier for people to see.
Just as an aside…when I first opened the shop we used to own I got an email from someone who confused me with another shop in the area. He went all ballistic because he thought it was me that had a better red section right inside the front window, where the sun beat down on it half the day. Excuse me? Did get an apology when I pointed out the misunderstanding. Sunlight and heat… totally different of course.
UC Davis did a study and concluded that up to 3 years there is no danger of corks drying in upright bottles. The study didn’t go beyond that period, so they might be fine longer than that. I don’t remember what the ambient humidity was.
I will mention, one only needs to watch a couple of minutes of a baseball game from your neck of the woods to have an appreciation of the differences that come from that altitude.
Despite the Davis study, I like the idea of one standing up with the others laying down behind. Why chance it, especially on the high end?
Thanks for the comments. I can’t help to think that if I was a new producer, I wouldn’t want folks to get a bad first impression of my wine due to improper storage. I suppose that can happen.
We rotate our bottles that are on the 22 degree displays atop the racking in our wine room. Still, I’ve had a snob or two give their opinion by pointing out how many bottles that are on display and must have dry corks.
What bothers me more than the floor stacks of bottles standing upright is the temperature in the building. A local “wharehouse” liquor store, (now closed), was always about 80 degrees in the summer and 74 in the winter. Those temperatures seemed about the same as I’ve noticed in Costco.
I read somewhere that champagne should be stored standing as opposed to on its side.
Champagne corks dry out just as much as still wine corks. Lay 'em down.
I live at 4700 feet…what is happening to all my wine, i am unaware of?