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Questions About Shipping, Shock & Heat

Did you check out the last post on Barbacoa? If you skipped it, you missed a bunch more “Memes and Funnies”, so you may want to head back just to give yourself a laugh. In the meantime, let’s get to these questions that readers and friends have recently asked me about wine.

Questions about Shipping Wine, Bottle Shock, and Heat Exposure

I was recently on a Facetime call with friends in Ohio. We were discussing how much they were loving the Acquiesce Grenache Rosé they were drinking. It is a wine I introduced to them as well as arranged an order to be shipped.  It is what I do for friends. My alias is “The Hook Up” (no that that kind of hook up, get out of the gutter). At any rate, it had only arrived a week before this call. They were already drinking it when I got on the call. So I asked, “How was it?” They loved it, of course. But I then said, “I’m surprised you are already drinking it. You only let it rest for about six days.” The look on all of their faces was that of confusion. So I then asked the question, “What about bottle shock?” The confused look on their faces did not change, so I explained what bottle shock is.

So for those out there that do not know about bottle shock yet, let’s get the Q&A started.


Questions – Bottle Shock

I am not talking about the movie, Bottle Shock, but the actual condition that affects wine.

Its the movie about the 1976 Paris Wine Tasting, also known as The Judgement of Paris.

What is bottle shock?

Bottle Shock is a temporary condition of wine characterized by muted or disjointed fruit flavors. There are two common ways that bottle shock occurs—either right after bottling, or when wines are shipped. The winery takes care of the first opportunity by allowing the newly bottled wine to rest before releasing it. But the latter possibility is something that you need to consider.

Wine is a living, breathing thing that evolves every day in the bottle. Thus spending days in the back of a UPS truck vibrating down the highway or weeks in the hull of a ship crossing the ocean “can” temporarily affect the wine. With time a shocked wine will recover. 

Lastly, we are not talking about the drive from the store to your house. But we could be talking about wine that sits for a month in a wine rack on top of your refrigerator that vibrates when running, not to mention the heat it puts out.  

Does it always happen?

No. But it can happen. It can happen to one bottle and not others or some bottles, but not all. There is no rhyme or reason; it just happens sometimes.

How long should you allow the wine to rest after delivery?

That, my friend, depends on who you ask. 

Gary and I have always waited for two weeks for wine shipped from the west coast. But that was because the owner of the wine store where Gary worked, told Gary so. So I also put the question out to my peers in the wine community to see what they thought. The two questions I asked: Does bottle shock exist? And How long do you wait to drink wine after a delivery?

All were in agreement that bottle shock exists. That was the easy part of the answers.  How long they wait was varied to the nth degree, from merely a few days to eight weeks (Wow!).  One winemaker/sommelier said his rule of thumb is five days for every day in transit plus a week.  For us, that would mean 32 days for any wine shipped ground from the west coast.

For the majority of my deliveries, that seems a tad extreme, so I am going to stick with the two-week guide. If the first bottle seems off or closed down, I will hold off before opening any more. 

Photo by Drew Coffman on Unsplash

So you are not sure about bottle shock. Try this fun, quick test.

Pull two identical bottles from your stash. Put one in the trunk of your car and drive for an hour. Take it back home and open both bottles. Have someone blind you on them (put in a paper bag, so you do not know which bottle is which). Now taste them side by side.

They will taste radically different.

Questions About Heat

Heat and wine are not compatible at all. And it may be shocking to learn how just a little bit of heat can affect your wine. Wine is a living, breathing thing that evolves every day in the bottle. Be wary if it’s kept in temperatures above 75˚F for more than a few days. Above 80˚F and that wine is at risk with each passing hour.  

Photo by James Day on Unsplash

What about shipping during the summer months? Need I worry about the heat?

Many wineries will halt shipping in the summer months, especially to the hottest regions of the country. The northern regions may be suspended for a shorter period.  It always depends on Mother Nature. Just know that when ordering from a winery, you want to be sure that they are monitoring the temperatures before shipping.  Additionally, there are a few things that you can request if you must have your wine, and you want it now.

questions shipping
Photo by Obi Onyeador on Unsplash
      •  FedEx Cold Chain service is the safest option. It can double your shipping cost but never experiences any heat until it leaves the truck to get to your door.
      • Some wineries will add icepacks for an additional charge, but that only helps for transit times of two to three days. 
      • Of course, overnight shipping is an option, but unless you are buying expensive wine, the exceptionally high cost is probably more than the value of the wine.
      • To keep your wine from sitting on an unairconditioned truck all day awaiting your turn in the route, you can request that the wine be shipped to your closest FedEx Office or UPS Store. That way, it goes from the distribution center to the truck to the store/office first thing in the morning. If you do not have an account at the UPS store, there is a nominal fee. FedEx does not, at this time, charge a fee. 

The bottom line is to plan and get your shipments before the summer heat blankets the country.

What about leaving wine in the car when out and about?

NEVER leave wine in your car when it’s above 72°F. That includes the trunk as well as the interior. Just like you do not want to leave your child or your pet in a car with the windows up and the sun beating down on it, you need to treat your wine the same way. Remember, it is a living organism.questions heat

At 72°F, your interior car temperature rises approximately 6-8 degrees every five minutes. So within 15 minutes, the internal temperature of your car can rise to 90°- 96°. Within 30 minutes, your wine is cooking at between 108° – 120°. If it is in your trunk, the temperature goes up even faster.

The bottom line is to stop at the wine store last and then head right home.

How can you tell if your wine has overheated?

I could answer this for you, but as I was researching this post, I came across a post on the Tablas Creek Winery Blog. I love Tablas Creek wines and decided why not send you to their blog for an excellent post on this very subject. It is thorough with great example images. And I could not have said it any better.

My wine warmed up in transit. Is it still OK?

image courtesy of Tablas Creek Blog

Oh, and by the way. Do not store your wine in a rack on top of your refrigerator. They produce a lot of heat and remember heat rises, thus creating a pocket of hot air around your wine.

Questions?  You know I love me some questions, so send them my way, and I will see if I can help.

That is all for now.


Rick & Gary

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