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Dear Dr. Vinny,
After bottling a wine, is it necessary to leave it standing for a few days before laying it down on its side for long-term storage?
—Tim, Lakehurst, Ontario, Canada
There is a school of thought among home winemakers that after bottling, a bottle of wine should be kept upright for a few days to allow the cork to fully expand and create a firm seal. This shouldn't take more than two days, after which wine should be stored on its side, with the wine in contact with the cork to prevent it from drying out.
Another reason home winemakers might want to let the bottle rest upright for a day or two is that the process of corking a bottle by hand requires substantial pressure to push the cork into the next of the bottle, and that can cause pressure to build up inside the bottle. That pressure needs time to equalize, which means some of that extra air inside needs to escape—if the bottle is on its side while this is happening, it'll be wine that escapes instead of air.
But I wanted to check with the pros, so I reached out to Top It Off Bottling, a mobile bottling service in Napa. They confirmed that, unlike home corking methods, commercial corking lines draw a vacuum inside the bottle, which helps suck the cork into the neck and eliminates that additional pressure inside the bottle—no need for commercially corked bottles to be left standing up for a few days.
“If you have pressure in the bottle from pushing the cork in," says Jake Lewis, Top It Off Bottling's director of mobile operations, "[laying the bottle on its side is] potentially catastrophic, since the wine could be pushed through the cork as it sits in the case. That is why we check [the vacuum pressure] in the bottle constantly during production. Most high-end wines are bottled and then stored [on their sides].”
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