The Wine Storage-Cork Connection

The Wine Storage-Cork Connection

Wine racks for proper wine storage and wet corks-- from Rosehill Wine Cellars.

A fundamental of wine storage is placing wine on horizontal racks, to protect the cork. (Photo: Wine Racks from Rosehill Wine Cellars)

Wine storage is widely known to be best in cellar-like conditions, but far fewer wine drinkers understand the importance of the cork. The idea behind creating a wine cellar is to provide the perfect environment for wine to be stored so that it ages properly. For storage of a year or more, natural cork in a wine bottle is a crucial component in the process of wine maturation. The fact that most wine racks are built to store wine horizontally has to do with the cork, but that’s not all. The cork takes the spotlight in wine cellars in several ways.

Horizontal wine racks

For a cork to perform the way it is meant to, it must stay wet by maintaining contact with the wine. Horizontal wine racks are ideal because they keep the cork wet. If the cork does not stay wet, the result will be that the cork dries out, shrinks, and allows oxygen to get to the wine. This results in oxidation. Oxidized wine turns into vinegar, totally spoiling the anticipated flavor and enjoyment of the wine.

Constant Wine Storage Temperature

An essential part of wine storage is maintaining a constant temperature that rarely fluctuates. When there are swings in temperature, the wine will continuously expand and contract, which ultimately damages the cork’s integrity. As the cork is pulled in and out by the effects of changing temperatures, eventually, wine can seep along the outer edge of the cork, between the bottle neck and the cork. This allows air in, which is another way wine becomes oxidized. Due to the importance of maintaining a constant temperature, wine cellars are best built by professionals who understand how to properly insulate a wine cellar and how to choose a wine cellar cooling unit of the correct size for the space.

Clean Environment

Another fundamental aspect of proper wine storage is keeping the environment clean and free of foodstuffs and other items that introduce strong smells. Odors can permeate corks and contaminate the wine. Don’t store bleach or foods such as cheeses in your wine cellar, since they can ruin the wine through the cork. If mice and insects are drawn to the cellar because of the presence of food, they also tend to chew corks and gnaw on wine labels.

Experts in Wine Storage

The professional builders at Rosehill Wine Cellars know all the details of proper wine storage, including the significance of wine corks. There is an undeniable connection between wine storage and corks, just as proper wine storage is linked to enjoying the taste of fine bottles of wine.

Part Four: Storage Angle – Proper Wine Storage is Key to Great Tasting Wine

Part Four: Storage Angle – Proper Wine Storage is Key to Great Tasting Wine

Storage angle of the wine bottle and the integrity of the cork stopper are essential to preserving the integrity of your wine.  Wine bottles should always be stored either horizontally, or at a slightly negative inclination to keep the wine in constant contact with the cork, which keeps the cork swollen and thereby ensure no air enters the bottle.

Wine corks are part of the proper wine storage solution

Corks are typically made from the bark of cork oak trees. The cork oak (Quercus suber) is native to the Mediterranean region, where most of the world’s commercial supply of cork is obtained. Because of its impermeability, buoyancy, elasticity, and fire resistance, it is used in a variety of products, the most common of which is the wine stopper.

A wet cork keeps the air out of a wine bottle

Storage angle and corks play a vital role in preserving wine. A single cork can last for decades in a properly angled bottle of wine.

After about ten years in a wine bottle the cork can sometimes deteriorate, with the rate of deterioration being affected by ambient storage temperature and humidity. Warmer and excessively humid storage environments cause growth of molds, which attack both the cork and the label. Insufficient humidity may cause the cork to dry and crumble, in which case it should be replaced.

So what should you do to prevent either of these unfortunate scenarios?

Store your wine at a proper angle

When wine is stored on its side, the cork remains wet. When wet, the transmission of air through the cork into the wine is minimized. When bottles are stored upright, the cork eventually dries out and oxygen in the air causes chemical changes in the wine, spoiling it. In addition, the cork may work loose due to pressure changes and cause leakage or exposure to air.

View our wine racks with several configurations of side-angled bottle holders (which also help reduce vibration) for longer term storage options.

TIP: Of course there is one exception to this rule and that’s when you’re dealing with fortified wines. Fortified wines should be stored standing up … but … there’s even an exception to this rule and that exception concerns Port. Ports should be stored on their sides.

Plastic wine stoppers?

Storage angle and a wet cork in a bottle keeps wine from spoiling

When wine is stored on its side, the cork remains wet. When wet, the transmission of air through the cork into the wine is minimized.

Since we’re on the topic of corks, we should briefly make mention of plastic corks.

Generally speaking, plastic corks work fine and some people feel they provide a better seal.  Plastic corks don’t deteriorate.  They also prevent the wine from adopting cellar notes. You’ll still want to be concerned with the other wine storage factors we’ve touched in in this series: light, temperature, etc, but with plastic corks humidity becomes less of an issue. And of course, there is the romance factor which is lost with plastic corks and screw tops. What do you think?


Thanks for reading Rosehill’s Proper Wine Storage series. In case you missed any entries, here they are for your enjoyment:

Part One: Temperature – Proper Wine Storage is Key to Great Tasting Wine

Part Two: Humidity – Proper Wine Storage is Key to Great Tasting Wine

Part Three: Light – Proper Wine Storage is Key to Great Tasting Wine

Part Four: Storage Angle – Proper Wine Storage is Key to Great Tasting Wine

Part Five: Vibration & Ventilation – Proper Wine Storage is Key to Great Tasting Wine