DO I HAVE TO LAY THE BOTTLES DOWN?
With cork closures becoming less common, many wine drinkers are confused about this one. For wines under cork, it is definitely best to store bottles on their side, to prevent the cork from drying out, which can let air into the wine and age it prematurely, or cause faults to develop. Most sparkling wines still use corks, and these must always be stored lying down, as if the cork dries out, the bottle can slowly lose pressure – and no one likes sparkling wine that isn’t sparkling! Wines under screwcap can be stored anyway that you like. The important thing when deciding to age a screw-capped wine is to ensure that the cap is in perfect condition – if the cap is dented or damaged, it’s possible that the seal may not be perfect. A good reason to lay red wines down for long-term ageing, regardless of the closure, is sediment. As the tannins, colour pigments and acids go through complex ageing reactions, it is quite common for a small amount of sediment to fall out of red wine. Laying the bottle down for ageing means the sediment forms on the side of the bottle, and the shoulder of the bottle then helps you avoid pouring out the sediment as well as the wine. It is also a good idea to decant very old red wines into a decanter before serving, to avoid the sediment ending up in your glass. (The sediment is harmless, but it may taste slightly bitter and may have a gritty texture. No one likes a mouthful of grit!)