ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

Several stores near me keep many of their wines upright on the shelves. This is probably fine for the latest vintages, but they also have older wines stored upright. How long can a wine be stored upright before the cork begins to dry out, and should these stores be called on their practice? I have been eyeing a magnum for sale there for a while, but I’m scared off by the upright storage. I’d probably lay it down for a while and it would be difficult to return at a later day. Am I right to be nervous?

—Tom B., Little Silver, N.J.

Dear Tom,

There isn’t an exact formula—if a bottle of wine is upright and there isn’t enough humidity, over time the cork might dry out, which could allow air into the bottle, prematurely aging a wine. I agree that as the wine gets older, this concern increases.

I’d express your concerns to the store—tell them exactly what you just told me. Without knowing anything else about the condition of the bottle, if I heard it’s been upright for more than a few months, I’d be hesitant to purchase it too. Hopefully their answers will let you know how seriously they take their wine storage.

—Dr. Vinny


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