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Bottle Shock: Let it Rest

It’s Alive

Yep, wine is as “alive” as any other agricultural product and can be affected by temperature fluctuations, movement, oxygen and many other factors. Think about it, wine changes as it ages so why not because it got jostled around on a ship as it crossed the pond from France or even after a week in a UPS truck from California to Charleston. There have been several times when we have purchased a new vintage of a wine that

Bottle Shock
Any wine in that hot truck?
Photo by Orlando Leon on Unsplash

we have traditionally really liked. We pop the cork on that first bottle and think, “WHOA! what happened to this vintage?” Only to find out that the retailer accepted a delivery without giving the wine a chance to rest after its journey across the pond to Charleston. And the answer many times is bottle shock. Wine traveling over an extended period of days or weeks usually experiences this shock and often just needs time to rest and settle at a constant temperature to bring it back to its former self. An example that recently happened to me follows below.

Shipping Wine: Let It Rest

There is an online wine retailer that I love. It is called the Last Bottle that buys closeouts and stray cases of wine from well-known wineries around the world. Then every day, sometimes twice a day you get an email from them with prices that are truly amazing. Yes, it may be a lot of emails but there are some real gems for sale, and it is quick to decide “yes or delete.”  Gary and I are huge Châteauneuf-du-Pape (CdP) fans so when I saw this Château Mont Thabor Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2014 for $28 bucks, I had to buy some. (This wine usually sells for $36.00 to $40.00 a bottle depending on where you live.) Buying four bottles got me free shipping. I had never had it and knew nothing about it. But I had never tasted a CdP that I did not love, so this was an easy buy.

Here is a link to save $10 buck on your first order at Last Bottle.  Copy and paste this link into your web browser and save!

 Bottle Shock: What is it?

According to Dr. Vinny from the Wine Spectator: “Bottle Shock” or “bottle sickness” are terms used to describe a temporary condition in a wine where its flavors are muted or disjointed. The evidence for this phenomenon is more anecdotal than scientific, but the theory is that all the complex elements in wine (phenolics, tannins, and compounds) are constantly evolving, both on their own and in relation to each other. Heat or motion can add stress to this evolution, causing the wine to shut down temporarily.

 What Was I Thinking

The day it arrived I was so excited that I ignored my better judgment. While I should have put it away for at least two weeks, I opened a bottle. I had to have it, and I wanted it now. Yes, it just crossed the country from California in winter dealing with freezing weather during its 7-day journey. Knowing this, I still ignored that little guy on my shoulder that said… “put it away!”

It was not pretty, and I was so mad at myself.  Yes, it was experiencing bottle shock.

What It Should Have Been

Below is the description from Last Bottle of the wine I was receiving.

“This stuff… just ROCKS!! 90-92 points! {points are subjective I know but still} Classic, classic killer Châteauneuf from the fine folks at Mont Thabor…. polished wine. And that’s the deal here )besides the whoppingly awesome price, of course)- POLISH. These wines are not heavy or alcoholic, they glide across the palate and pack a lot of fruit and classic old-vine Grenache character — kirsch, framboise, sweet herbs, earth, mineral, and tons of red flowery scents and sensations. This is long and complex and layered, on the elegant, polished side and changes with every sip — that’s one of the things we love best!! Right?? Complexity!”

Bottle Shock

Tasting Bottle Shock – My Experience

From the very first sniff through to the end this bottle was just one note – pepper.  White pepper on the nose. Pepper on the palate. And a long peppery finish.  That was it. It did not matter that I let it breathe for 2 hours before pouring the first glass nor that I aerated my first glass as I poured it. It also did not matter that I let the glass sit for an hour after I had my first few sips. The one note was pepper. The bottle was in shock and I just wasted $28 bucks. And for the record, Gary had the same experience.

Two Weeks Later: LOVE it, Duh! Totally different wine.

Bottle ShockWhile the color was the same as expected, a medium to deep red garnet with pale edges; the nose exploded with ripe red cherries, baking spices, earth and as it faded turned to cooked cherry pie. The palate sang with red berries including those tart red cherries as well as a hint of clove. All the way in the background was that pepper from the first bottle, but it was so mild and late as the wine left your tongue. This is an entirely new and beautiful wine. As we drank through this bottle, Gary and I kept looking at each other and smiled. This is what I should have waited for.

FYI: 80% Old vine Grenache, 10% Syrah, 5% Mourvedre and 5% Cinsault

I still have two more bottles and will share my thoughts as I go along.

Netting it out…

A ride home from the grocery store… no problem. Your online order just arrived via USP or FedEx? Let it rest to prevent bottle shock.  A new vintage of your favorite wine just arrived at your favorite wine store? Ask them when it landed before you buy it. Or just take it home and let it rest before you drink it.

And let me be clear. Last Bottle did their job. They shipped me the wine I wanted at a great price.  I clearly jumped the gun with the first bottle. I look forward to bottle three and four in the weeks or months ahead.

That is all for now.




  1. I honestly have never had wine shipped (I’m too impatient), but I’m excited to try Last Bottle! I’ve never thought about letting it rest either. Thank you for sharing!

    • You are missing out on great wines by not ordering wine and having it shipped. I am glad to be a source of inspiration.

    • I just sent you a code to get $10 off your first order.

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