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Wine Wednesdays With William: The Myth Of How And Where To Store Wine

'saratoga living' wine expert William Roach takes on two of the biggest myths in the wine-collecting (and -drinking!) world.

Wine Cellar
(Govisity.com/Flickr)

The conventional wisdom is that wine should be stored on its side, in a damp environment, to ensure the cork remains moist and doesn’t shrink. Unfortunately, that isn’t true. Dr. Miguel Cabral is the Director of Research and Innovation at Amorim, the world’s largest supplier of cork. Earlier this year, Cabral said that the humidity in the headspace of a wine bottle was such that the cork would remain damp even if stored upright. “The cork will never dry out with almost 100 percent humidity in the headspace, so it is a myth that you need to store a bottle on its side,” he said. He added: “The humidity of the environment around the bottle won’t have any influence, because the cork is influenced by the humidity inside the bottle. So the idea that you need to store wine in a damp cellar is another myth.”

This is not new news for the scientific community. A decade earlier, the Australian Wine Research Institute came to the same conclusion. The abstract of their research paper on wine aging states that “The bottle orientation during storage under the conditions of this study had little effect on the composition and sensory properties of the wines examined.”
Finished wine used to contain particulate matter that made drinking the wine young, unpleasant. Over time, these solids would coalesce and fall out of suspension in the form of sediment which would be left behind in the bottle when the wine was poured into a decanter for serving.

Back in the day, wine drinkers were invariably wealthy. When they received wine from their wine merchants several years before it would be drinkable, they’d do what we all do with stuff we don’t have any immediate use for: They’d put it in the cellar, where, stacked on their side, the bottles got damp but at least, were out of the way.

Wine Challenge No.8
See if your wine retailer has some wine with a little age on it. Ask them what would be comparable from a recent vintage. Buy both and taste side by side. The older wine should be less deeply colored and have less of a fruity character.

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William Roach

William was born in London, England, where he wrote and produced TV programs. He's married to Catharine Hamilton who, with her sister, owns Putnam Market on Broadway. William runs The Wine Room at Putnam Market where he teaches wine classes for The Wine & Spirits Education Trust.

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