Unfortunately, it got pushed to the side and a box placed in front of it. I finally moved the box and there was the bottle. Conventional wisdom says that wine bottles need to lie on their sides to keep the corks wet and nicely expanded, so they fit snugly into the bottle necks and keep a tight seal. A dry cork can shrink and let air into the bottle, which would oxidize the wine.
I have to admit it wasn’t the first time I had left a wine standing up for that long. And my experience is reassuring. On those occasions when I have left a bottle upright for some time, even for several months, it’s always been OK. And so was this one, which had all its youthful fruit, freshness, subtleties and balance intact, despite its eight-month verticality.
Now, I am not advocating that we all get rid of our wine racks and just line up the bottles upright on shelves. Corks really can dry out and expose the wine to air, and that can damage the contents. But I wonder if it happens as fast as some of us think.
Although I have issues with cork taint, I admire the cork as a marvelous piece of natural engineering. Its interior is honeycombed with tiny air pockets. When the cylinder is cut, it exposes them like miniature suction cups, which help the cork adhere to the glass. Wine corks are cut significantly wider than the bottle necks. Mechanically compressed before they are inserted, they expand to fill the space but never quite as wide as they were. A lot has to go wrong before corks lose their seals, which is why they became standard for wine.
My theory is that the tiny amount of oxygen that might possibly get through needs more time than a few weeks or months to do its damage. Unless you’re planning to keep a bottle for 10 or 15 years, it’s not worth fretting if the bottle stood up for a few weeks before it found its way to horizontality in the cellar.
Of course, bottles sealed with twist-offs or other inert closures can stand up for years and it won’t affect the seal. They aren’t affected by moisture, or lack of it.
I know some wine drinkers who panic at the thought of leaving their cork-stoppered bottles standing up overnight, let alone for months. I think we need to relax a little. Only worry about it if you want to keep the wine for years.
Larry Schaffer — central coast, ca — January 9, 2009 5:03pm ET
Claude Kaber — Luxemburg — January 9, 2009 5:10pm ET
Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA — January 9, 2009 5:48pm ET
Karl Mark — Geneva, IL. — January 9, 2009 8:19pm ET
Brad Baker — Vancouver Canada — January 9, 2009 10:00pm ET
Robert Dwyer — Wellesley, MA — January 10, 2009 7:58pm ET
Steven M Ruths M D — Santa Barbara, CA — January 11, 2009 1:54am ET
Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA — January 11, 2009 2:16am ET
Scott Johnson — Burlingame, CA — January 11, 2009 5:10pm ET
Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA — January 11, 2009 6:14pm ET
Andrew J Grotto — January 12, 2009 4:19pm ET
Paul Ruiter — January 15, 2009 1:37pm ET
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