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Wine bottles stored on its side in a wine rack

Why Is Wine Stored on Its Side?

Wine is stored on its side because it stops the corks from drying out (which causes the wine to age too quickly), and it's a more efficient use of space to store wine horizontally.

Whether you're new to the wine community or not, when you think about wine storage, each bottle is on its side. It's easy to wonder if there's a reason behind it. The short answer is yes: it's to reduce aeration and increase storage efficiency.

Details are everything when it comes to a liquid as particular as wine. Because of this, the long answer about tipping your bottles is vital for anyone looking to build up a collection. Keep each of the following points in mind when creating your storage area.

Let's Talk About Aeration

Hands holding a carafe with red wine
Aeration is the concentration of oxygen. Another word you might be more familiar with would be oxygenation, and you may know that it's considered harmful to wine. Keeping your wine bottles on their sides keeps the cork moist so it doesn't let too much air in. What happens if air does get in, though?

Imagine you have an apple. Take a bite and leave it on the table for a few hours, then return to it. Multiple changes will have occurred, and all of them are similar to what happens if your cork dries out. Specifically, we're going to cover color, aroma, and flavor, as they are the core of the sensory enjoyment of wine.

See the Difference

Even white wines will darken if over oxygenized. Reds will turn to shades usually seen in bricks and wood stains. The chemical reactions caused by exposure to air change the anthocyanins, which largely determines the color.

Dark wine isn't necessarily an indicator that your wine is too aerated. Some are simply dark by nature, particularly when dealing with aged wine. A myriad of factors contribute to the hue, so don't assume that the bottle of red in your wine storage is spoiled just because it's a deep color. It might just have a rich, structured flavor.

On the Tip of Your Tongue

Remember the apple we used as an example earlier? Think about how it tastes when you come back to it, with a nutty flavor that is starkly different than the crisp sweetness it previously held. A much different experience, and not the one you wanted.

Aeration causes the chemical makeup to be altered. Instead of a diverse symphony on your tastebuds, you'll get a simplistic, cooked fruit solo. Freshness flattens and a Sherry-like flavor takes over that defeats the purpose of choosing the wine in the first place.

Aroma Ties It All Together

20 different fruits in 20 wine glasses showing the most common wine aromas
Wine is best enjoyed when the smell is as incredible as the taste. In fact, all of the pleasure is removed when the waft is unpleasant. No one wants the scent of vinegar in their cup when sitting down to a meal, relaxing in a bath, or chatting with friends. Vinegar is exactly what your nose will get from a wine with too high an oxygen level.

Dry Corks Are Unsightly

A dry cork does more than allow overexposure to air. If wine is leaking, it's usually the cork. This happens because it's dried out, making it shrink smaller than the bottle's opening and allowing for seepage. Additionally, it's indicative that the liquid inside is ruined.

Another issue seen in dry corks is the brittleness. It's much more difficult to get the cork out in one piece, and bits can fall into the drink. Floating fragments of the stopper are less than appealing when taking a sip. It can also make your friends distrustful of the quality of the glass they're receiving.

Efficient Wine Storage Is Key


Loft 400 Double Wine Cooler 92 Bottle Dual Zone #34227 with wine bottles stored on its side


It is a fact of life that nothing else can be put into it once a space is full. A wine cooler is no different. Even if you have screw-top bottles or the cork is made of plastic or glass, this is true.

Having limited space doesn't need to be a problem when it's fully taken advantage of, regardless of your wine collection goals. The most common purposes for a cooler or cellar are quantity, showing off, or both.

Smaller Shelves Enhance Capacity

Loft 400 Wine Cooler 46 Bottles


Everyone knows that wine bottles are taller than they are wide and that vertical space is more important than horizontal for accessibility purposes. The average library will only have shelves as high as the average person can see and reach, and an effective wine cellar will be the same.

All those prioritizing density over appearance need is accessibility and label readability. Both are best achieved with a sideways bottle. This positioning allows for condensed rows, maximizing vertical storage capabilities.

Visual Appeal Sets the Tone

Visually speaking, a wall with upright wine bottles looks low brow, almost like stumbling across a restaurant bar known for its meatloaf and shepherd's pie. The aesthetic lacks appeal but can be mended at forty-five degrees for those who want to show off their collection.

On top of bringing the right feel to your cooler or cellar, it allows more space to play with the design. Wiggle room allows for greater customization for visual effect and increased ability to instill your personality. That high-end feel that looks unique will change any event with wine and leaves an impression with every guest that goes through your collection.

Labels Matter

There's no point in having a wine collection if you don't plan on using it for anything. To use it appropriately, regardless of the intended purpose, you need to know what everything is without digging. Angled bottles allow for label visibility for a larger quantity of your supply.

Whether you're looking to sell or impress, readability is to your advantage. Most wine bottles are made of dark glass, so identification is only possible with the sticker's readability. The more compact these easily visible labels are, the more value they will associate with them, making tipping useful for this purpose too.

To preserve the delicate chemical make-up of fine wine and fully exploit your storage space, keeping the bottles sideways is essential. Without the appropriate equipment, it's impossible. Get everything you need for the wine storage space of your dreams from Wine Cellar HQ. 

Is Wine Still Good If Stored Upright?

For casual drinkers, wine will likely still be good if stored upright over a short period of time, but for those who wish to control the aging process over a longer period of time, it's best to store wine horizontally.

Can Screw Top Wine Be Stored Upright?

Yes, screw top wine bottles don't have a cork that can dry out, so they can be stored upright or on the side with no difference.

How Do You Know If a Wine Has Gone Bad?

 If wine has gone bad, you'll know by the following signs:

  • Smell - wine that's gone bad will definitely smell bad. If you're repulsed by the smell, it's likey gone off.
  • Acidity - the bacteria will crete excess acid that gives the wine a vinegar quality.
  • Chemical taste - if the fermentation process was incorrect, then it can give the wine a chemical taste.
  • Bubbles in still wine
  • Damaged cork or leaking wine.

Is It Safe To Drink Wine With Sediment?

Sediment in wine is usually safe to drink, but it will likely have a slightly strange texture that not everyone will like.

How to Store Wine Properly

To store wine properly you need to build a wine cellar that's well insulated, use proper wine racks, and install a wine cellar cooling unit.

Did you learn something new? Wine Cellar HQ would love to know your thoughts, share it with us!

Randy Green

Randy is a true wine storage aficionado and expert in wine cellar design. He gained construction experience as a partner in a general contracting business before niching into and passionately focusing on creating wine storage solutions for clients in 2016. He takes great pride in bringing these designs to life, and is dedicated to ensuring that every wine cellar he creates is not only functional but also a beautiful addition to any home or business. The Wine Cellar HQ team also includes refrigeration sizing experts and licensed HVAC technicians to ensure optimal climate control for your wine cellar, so that your wines can age to perfection.
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