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Dear Dr. Vinny,
At the bar I manage, we store the red wines standing up on a shelf, but they never sit there for more than a month. Is that OK?
—Matthew H., Gallup, N.M.
I think your wines will be OK. After all, most wine shops and grocery stores also display wines standing up. I think the most important thing is that you make sure you are rotating your stock so that your wines continue to move off the shelves in a timely manner.
Conventional wisdom is that any wine topped with a cork should be stored on its side. When corks are working perfectly, they expand to fill the space in the neck of the bottle, protecting the wine from oxygen and premature aging. But if a cork starts to dry out, it can shrink and become brittle, letting air in. If a bottle is stored on its side, you can at least be sure that the part of the cork that is inside the bottle is kept wet with wine. It will also help to keep your wine in a relatively humid place.
That said, in the equation of wine storage, the most important factor is temperature. High temperatures can damage wines, and temperature fluctuation can compromise a cork as the liquid inside expands and contracts.
There’s no absolute to these things—there are so many factors, from the original, mysterious condition of the cork to the relative humidity in the room, but in general I think storing a bottle upright for a few weeks is fine. For longer-term storage, I’d look into other options.
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