Q: I’ve been storing my wines on their sides for years, but a friend says I should store them on an angle pointing downward because of sediment. Who’s right here?
A: You’ve probably noticed that the vast majority of wine racks sold in stores are built to hold wines lying flat. While there is nothing wrong with the angled storage your friend suggests, there is no benefit to it.
Most quality wines are stoppered with a natural cork. Made from oak bark, cork can dry out in time, allowing air to leak in. A little bit of air in the bottle can ruin wine very quickly. Storing your bottles on the side keeps the wine in contact with the cork at all times, thereby keeping the cork moist and keeping air out.
A recent theory suggests storing wine on an upward angle of about 30°, to keep the cork in contact with both the wine and the bit of air (the ullage) at the top of the bottle. But this is very difficult to achieve and could be overkill when you consider that flat storage has kept many bottles of wine in good shape for a hundred years or more.
As for sediment, that’s a major topic on its own. So lay those bottles on their sides. They will stack a lot better, it’s easier to do, it requires no special racks, and your wines will stay in top condition.