If you’ve ever sat down to enjoy a nice, relaxing glass of your favorite wine only to have the cork crumble into the bottle, you’re not alone. It turns out, this devastating scene happens because you — and millions of other wine drinkers — don’t realize that proper wine storage is actually really important.
There’s a good reason why wine racks typically have the bottle lying down.
“Bottles of wine should be stored horizontally to keep the wine in contact with the cork and help prevent the cork from drying out,” wine critic and write Joanna Simon told Cosmopolitan.
If a wine cork dries out, it can become brittle and break with just a small amount of pressure. These can lead to those cork fragments floating around your wine glass.
Corks are susceptible to drying if not stored properly, and they’re also naturally breakable.
“Corks can become crumbly and friable with age — it being a natural product,” Simon said, also adding that your tool of choice can compound the problem. “Poof corkscrews, with a sharp, bevelled edge, rather than a smooth, rounded one, are more likely to break corks.”
Corked wine is a term commonly used to describe a bottle of wine that had unpleasant odors or tastes bad, but really, the term refers specifically to the cork itself.
“Most corked wines, including most of the worst, most musty, dank smelling wines, are the result of the cork being treated with a very powerful chemical compound known as TCA,” explained Simon.
This compound helps protect the cork against fungus. But sadly, there’s not much that can be done. TCA is formed when natural bacteria come in contact with certain chlorides found in winery sanitation or sterilization products like bleach.
“A corked wine can’t be ‘cured’, so there is nothing the poor wine drinker can do about.”
The best way to avoid cork-related problems? Search the wine store for screw-capped bottles, and if you’re stowing a few bottles of vino away from a rainy day, keep them horizontal.
Also see, here’s why expensive wines taste better.