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Dear Dr. Vinny,
For wine bottles stored on their side, should they be rotated on occasion or left alone?
—Nav S., Mississauga, Canada
It’s best to leave your bottles alone. If you’re going to store bottles for a long time, after a while they might start to accumulate sediment, a harmless byproduct of aging. There’s a myth that if you rotate your bottles, you’ll help keep the sediment from accumulating. Actually, by rotating the bottle you’ll just mix the sediment into the wine, instead of leaving it to settle in one place.
Think of sediment like the solids in a bottle of salad dressing. If you shake the bottle, all of the solids will be mixed up in the dressing. If you store the bottle on its side, all the heavy stuff will fall to that side. The best thing for wine is to keep it stored on one side until you’re ready to serve it. Then gently stand up the bottle for a couple days until the gunk falls down to the bottom, allowing you to pour the wine while leaving the sediment behind. (You don’t want to just keep the bottle standing upright the whole time because that puts the cork at risk of drying out and compromising its seal.) Even if you didn’t plan ahead by giving the sediment some time to settle to the bottom, it will still be a less gritty salad dressing—I mean wine.
Even though rotating bottles can be misunderstood, it does have its origins in an actual winemaking practice for sparkling wines called riddling, which is done before the wines are finished and sold. Watching a riddler is fascinating—I can see why some people might come home and want to practice in their cellars.
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