Drinking Wine After Delivery

I recently received a delivery and I’m anxious to start popping corks, but of course want the wines to be at their best.

I’ve always heard to let wine “settle” after delivery before opening, but the explanations I’ve heard for the reasons have been inconsistent. I’ve heard aged wines should be left longer than young wines- is this just because sediments can be stirred up during travel or is it something more? What about whites? Any recommendations appreciated.

What wines specifically? Yes, older wines need more time to settle they are more delicate.

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Full disclosure, I got a D+ in Physical Chemistry. I did, however, once drive 2 hours on a motorcycle with a 2005 Bordeaux I was excited to share only to find it undrinkable upon arrival due to the vibrations of the bike!

Weird things happen when liquids get shaken. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwiuoZmRjsTvAhVDFjQIHTQKCR0QFjAKegQIARAD&url=http%3A%2F%2Fphysics.csuchico.edu%2Fkagan%2Fprofessional%2Fpapers%2Fsoda.pdf&usg=AOvVaw2259Sa-e7-PXy_U6gqGmLM

The best answer physics can offer is that transporting a bottle of wine changes the energy balance particularly for the dissolved gasses (which are present in all wines, still or sparkling). These need time to return to equilibrium, which is why you need to let them sit still. I agree older wines may need more time for the fines to settle which is why I tell my friends I can’t bring my prized older bottles over to their houses!

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I have always found Burgundy with some age to need lots of time to recover. I will wait a minimum of a month before popping the cork

I thought you meant Delivery of a baby… not delivery of the wine.

Good sportsmanship is to wait until everyone is out of the delivery room…


What you are describing is the very controversial topic of travel shock.

A study conducted a few years ago by a MW found very little evidence of travel shock in red wines with a few years of age to them. Which suggests that some people are perhaps more overly cautious than necessary when it comes to waiting for a wine to settle after it goes through shipping or travel. As far as I’m aware there’s no study out there on white or sparkling wines or reds with significant age, so it’s tough to speak to the effects of travel on those, but if I had to guess, I’d reckon there’d be similar results with whites and sparkling. As a caveat, there is certainly enough evidence to show that older wines with sediment need more time to recover to at the very least allow time for the sediment that was stirred up in transport to settle.

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I don’t buy much at auction so the deliveries I typically get are reds in need of bottle age, so I’m usually not in a hurry to get into them.
My rule of thumb has been 21 days for no other reason than I lifted it straight off the Colgin shipper insert they’ve been using for years. I’ll see if I’ve saved one in the cellar.
I, of course, am weak so have popped plenty of Zins, Syrahs, GSMs, Whites, and even a rare Pinot inside that 21 days. I’ve often times felt a wine hadn’t integrated or was tight, but attributed it to youth not travel.

I try to wait one month, if not two, after taking delivery. Why? To avoid travel shock. Is travel shock a real thing? I don’t know. So why do I wait if I don’t even know if travel shock is real? Because it does no harm to wait, and maybe it helps. [cheers.gif]


I was going to say wait until the baby & mother come home first, but John already covered that angle.

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Yes, for sure. I guess my question is- Is there anything more the travel shock than the stirring up of sediment? I’ve heard a week per decade- meaning a 10 yr old wine needs 1 wk to settle, 20 yr old wine needs 2 wks to settle, etc. Can’t remember where I heard that. Sparkling wine I can see needing time. Otherwise, seems like nobody really knows. Sigh…I guess I’ll wait a few weeks before breaking into my new acquisitions. Thanks, everyone!

Where’s Mike Pobega when you need him?

Pobega has added this entire thread to his “foe’s” list.

Like Brian, I see only upside in waiting. I go to great lengths to get wine to show its best - temperature control, decanting, proper stems, enhancing pairings…why potentially undermine everything by being overeager? There are plenty of other things to drink while I wait.

For me, it depends on the purchase. If it is a case of something relatively new, i have no problem cracking one within a few days. The older in vintage, the longer I will wait. Also I will open whites earlier than reds. Riesling can get opened on arrival. Older reds can wait weeks or months.

This is an extremely contentious issue. Search for “travel shock” and you’ll find a number of threads.

So how long do you let shipped wine “settle”? (2020)
The myth of travel shock (2019)
How long should you let wine rest after shipping? (2019)
Let wine rest after shipping? (2018)

I have no doubt it is an issue for some wines, because many wine distributors and imports won’t pour their wines shortly after arrival. They have a huge financial incentive to offer samples immediately, but they’ve found they don’t show well. People in the trade are in the position to taste wines multiple times, at the source, on a arrival, and after a resting period. So I trust their opinions.

But there is a universe of Berserkers who think the idea of resting a wine is all BS.

Search for “travel shock” on this board and you’ll find long threads debating the issue.

The tl;dr summation is that old wines with fine sediment probably need some time to settle, brand new wines just bottled and shipped across the ocean and distributed around the US might need a little time to recover from the journey before put on retail shelves (there doesn’t seem to be any actual proof of this, but the view seems to have some wider acceptance among industry, and some people find that persuasive enough), but otherwise there is really no evidence that the rest of wines need rest, and nobody has ever appeared to show through blind tastings that they could distinguish just-received wines from bottles of the same wine that arrived months ago, nor is anyone willing to accept the challenge of doing that.

The challenge is confirmation bias. Once people have the notion of travel shock in their heads, when they occasionally open a bottle that just arrived in the mail or took with them on the plane and don’t like it as much as they hoped, then they say “aha, it was travel shock,” and the view gets reinforced. But the reality is that some percentage of time, under any circumstances, you don’t like a bottle as much as you hoped. Plus wines that just arrived may just still be too young to be showing their best.

So make your own opinion, while being careful to avoid confirmation bias.

Sediment is not the only thing that can be impacted from transportation. For example, the study suggests that that some small amount of oxygen can be absorbed through the cork in transport, impacting the wine chemically. Relevant passage from the article I linked to:

The sensory panel tasting found no significant differences between the samples that had travelled and those that had not moved at all. Furthermore, none of the travel samples displayed any negative sensory impacts. In short, the panel found no travel shock.

However, to my surprise, the wines that had been air-freighted had significantly lower levels of free SO2 (2-3pm) than the controls and the wines that had been transported by road. They also had higher spectral absorbance at 420nm, which indicated browning. This strongly suggested that a small amount of oxygen was absorbed through the cork while it was being air-freighted.

These results contradict the popular anecdotal view that wines suffer sensorially from travel shock immediately after travelling. I could go as far as to suggest that we blame a wine for not tasting as it should after travel when in fact it is not the wine but the person who is in ‘shock’, tired after travelling, or regretting the end of the holiday. That said, this experiment needs to be repeated, as results could have been different if another style of wine had been used.

It is important to note that even though the panel of tasters did not perceive the lower level of free SO2, it could nevertheless have a cumulative effect on wines that are shipped a number of times before being opened, and could potentially provoke a state of accelerated oxidation. In other words, they might age faster than they should. This could include fine and rare wines, often sold at auctions.

You can also find the full research paper here. It’s definitely worth a read to understand travel shock and the study a bit more. Good paper, easy to read

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Noah - You really should read some of those earlier threads. They’re quite contentious, but there is some information buried in them. I believe it was in the 2020 thread that someone cited some chemical reaction (something involving free SO2?) could be induced by extended vibration that could unwind with time. That seemed suggestive.

The Masters of Wine research that Rodrigo linked to is interesting. But I do question the conclusion (that there’s no sensory difference after shipping) based on just two tempranillo-based wines (Rioja Reserva and Ribera del Duero) that have very long oak-aging. That’s a quite distinctive, very oxidative style of winemaking, and those wines typically have little or no sediment even with a great deal of age. There are such big differences grape to grape in how wines show young and old, and what kind of sediment they throw, and so many different styles of winemaking (e.g., oxidative versus reductive), that I don’t find the MofW paper that persuasive.

The research paper doesn’t conclude that there is no travel shock for any wine. As you note, and the researcher admits, the paper is a vary narrowly tailored study, focusing on the effects of travel shock on mildly aged, full-body, oak-aged red wines. The conclusion was that for that wine there were no significant sensory differences between the wines travelled and not. Though the researcher himself admits that results could very well be different if other factors had changed. Things like packaging, closure type, style of wine, may all play a role in how transport may affect a wine. And those are all topics of research that would need to be conducted before we fully understand the phenomenon of travel shock. As with a lot of study, this is just some preliminary research on which people can begin to understand the effects of travel shock;

What i was noting is that—no surprise here—big, red wines (even with a few years of age to them) can take a beating in travel; and aren’t nearly as delicate as some would think. I’d posit that we’d see similar results with minimal sensory differences on other wine styles and that most on this board (myself included) prefer to be on the overly cautious side and wait longer “just in case” since there is no harm to them to do so. Nothing wrong with that.

There’s still lots more research to be done to understand travel shock properly. I’d love to se this study repeated, both identically for further validation and with different styles of wine, closures and packaging to get a fuller picture of the phenomenon.