Right side up…
Let me introduce a good friend and fellow winemaker in San Diego County as my guest blogger today. I asked Erik Humphrey, owner of San Pasqual Winery (urban winery located in Pacific Beach) to touch on a topic relating to his winery and that, he did. In his humble opinion, Erik explains his theory of storing wine ‘right side up’. Thanks Erik! Jennifer
Wine, Upside Down?
Around my winery, visitors have noticed that I store my cases of wine right-side up. They wonder why I don’t store them upside down to keep the liquid wine in contact with the corks to prevent them from drying out. After all, any wine cellar, from the 6-bottle home counter top fridges to large caves in Bordeaux, will have bottles laying on their sides to keep the corks moist, right?
Well, here’s the theory I subscribe to: unless you’re aging a 20 year classic, direct cork-to-wine contact is not necessary to maintain the integrity of the closure. I have three reasons for this belief and for why I just stack my cases onto pallets right-side up.
The first is that our wines, like 90% of the wines on the market, are made to be enjoyed sooner rather than later. As we sell out of inventory, our wine sits right-side up for a maximum of a few years. The reality is that our release are not cellared by the buyer for a significant period, but is consumed not long after purchase. We do have a big cab that I recommend to cellar for 7-10 years, but everything else is pretty much good to go out the door.
The second reason is that if you look at the ullage, the little pocket of air between the wine and the cork, you can see that there is a lot of moisture in there. I see little beads of condensation on the sides of the bottle and on the underside of the cork. Also, considering the surface area of the wine in relation to that confined space, there is a high ratio of liquid to air. Depending on ambient temperature, this creates a condition of very high humidity in the ullage, probably above 90%. Things (such as corks) do not dry very well in such humid conditions. Anyone who was ever been on a tropical vacation and hung a bathing suit on a patio chair to dry knows- that sucker is still a little damp even after hours. The fact that our location is near the coast so the outside humidity is a little higher helps, too.
And the final reason is for safety. Upside down cases of wine are very unstable. They are top-heavy and topple easy. With our humble winery space, I don’t need any more factors contributing to the mayhem of winery operations (operations at our place are like a tiring game of tetris—schlepping pallets and equipment around to make space for work).
So, while it doesn’t hurt to keep wine in contact with your corks, it is not needed for most cases, especially in considering efficiency of winery operations. I do admit that in my own home cellar, I keep my nicer bottles on the side—then again, I know that they’re going to be sitting there for a while. Enjoy your right-side up wine!
Erik Humphrey, Winemaker
San Pasqual Winery
For more information on Erik and his winery visit www.sanpasqualwinery.com.
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