Traveling with Wine 101
“Paul, I worry about the jostling of wine during travel. Don’t you think it damages the wine? Should I allow my wine to rest after I receive it from you, before I open it?”
– K.S.; Dublin, CA
Thank you for this question. I am asked it quite often in person, when I explain my Club and its operation to prospective members.
Here are some basic gleanings about wine transportation and storage:
Most wines improve or deteriorate according to how they are transported and where they are stored.
Excessive shaking of wine starts or encourages quicker chemical reactions that are occurring in a wine that is maturing. It is often said that wine is a “living thing” and it must be handled gently. This does not imply that there are living organisms in it, Heaven forbid! But, it means that there are complex natural organic chemical entities that are fragile and that are undergoing slow chemical changes in the maturation process. The fact that these changes occur is described as a ‘living’ process. These large organic chemical molecules react with each other, combine with each other, and modify each other to produce some of the changes and complexities we observe as a wine changes or ages and matures.
It is suggested by some that wine that has undergone a journey needs to rest. I concur. Depending on how severe the “vibration and jostling” and the duration of it, it is possible to detect minor, and sometimes temporary, taste differences. With taste being a very subjective thing, it is hard to say whether, after a rest, the wine is back to its original condition or whether it is at a new level of maturation after the shaking. I suspect it is the latter. The point is, a change can sometimes be detected.
We are talking at all times about an unopened bottle of wine. No air or oxygen has been introduced into the bottle. If the bottle has been opened and the wine has been exposed to oxygen, then the process of oxidation is significantly accelerated by shaking.
So, the rule of thumb should be that wine should be transported minimally and, after any transportation, should be allowed to rest for 24 hours in young wines, and longer if possible in older wines (especially if they have a sediment).
Obviously, with all the good wine one consumes, particularly if they have traveled distances like the imports, they must hold up well. Some will observe that the same wine will have tasted somewhat better at the winery tasting room or in the original cellar of the maker. The effect of jostling must not be very drastic for so many good wines to be good when we open them in our homes.
Some wines are known not to travel well. More white wines than red wines are that way, particularly Swiss wines.
If a wine is for early consumption, the bottle should be transported and stored upright. Allow a bottle to stand for day or two following a journey. A good bottle of wine taken to friends for drinking the same day can often turn out to be a considerable disappointment if it is mishandled.
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