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Dear Dr. Vinny,
Is it OK if my wine rack tilts slightly up? Is there a danger that the corks will dry out?
—Peter E., U.K.
Let me just review the generally accepted idea that wines with corks are best stored and aged on their side, so that the cork remains in contact with the wine. If a cork dries out, it can allow air in and cause the wine to oxidize and prematurely age. It's best practice to store wine bottles horizontally.
I’ve seen two ways bottle racking can tilt, however. The first is if you were to put an imaginary wedge underneath the back end of the bottle, forcing the liquid toward the neck. It certainly helps the cork stay moist, but that can cause the sediment to collect in the neck of the bottle, which is the place where you typically don’t want it.
I’ve seen more racks that are designed to tilt the other way, like the one you've described, with the neck slightly elevated. I’m talking a slight tilt—no more than 15 degrees. It’s still enough to keep the cork fully or mostly in contact with the wine, but it does two other things: prevent the bottles from sliding out of the shelves in the case of a mild earthquake or other physical disturbance, and encourage the sediment to settle down near the bottom corner of the bottle.Bottom line: A slight tilt is OK, but any more than a 15-degree tilt and you’d need to leave those shelves for your screwcapped wines, or wines that you're planning to drink in the near-term.
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