a wine shelf with bottles in both upright and side-lying positions.Sure, you've heard that wine should always be stored on its side.  But grocery stores and even many wine shops display their bottles upright.  The bottle is meant to stand that way for a reason, right?  Wrong.  Storing wine in the vertical position, especially if you're trying to age it, is a big mistake that can ruin your wine.

Here's why: your wine shares a fickle friendship with oxygen.  Oxygen reacts with the chemicals in your wine to change its flavor compounds.  In other words, without oxygen, wine could not age.  But oxygen also reacts with the alcohol in wine to form acetic acid, or vinegar.  Exposure to too much oxygen will ruin a bottle of wine.

So how do you limit the amount of oxygen that comes in contact with the wine?  This is where the cork comes in.  An old but ingenious solution to the oxygen problem, a cork can expand and contract as its environment changes.  Storing a bottle of wine upright keeps the cork high and dry, away from the wine.  It can dry out, and when it dries, it shrinks, leaving room for air to enter the bottle and let oxygen react with the wine.

When you store a bottle of wine on its side, the liquid keeps the cork moist.  The cork keeps its size (and can even expand if needed, for instance, if a warm environment causes the glass bottle to expand), and so maintains a tight seal against the outside air.  The only air that gets in is through the small pores in the cork--the perfect amount to age the wine well.

The best way to store wine on its side is in a wine rack specifically designed for the purpose.  Vintage Cellars offers a variety of beautiful and functional wine racks, any of which will store your precious bottles safely on their sides.