Is "travel shock" real?

So I opened a fresh-off-the-boat 2009 Pavelot Savigny Dominode tonight, and it is awful, and awful in an odd way- totally dead and watery, like someone ripped the stuffing out of the wine.

I figure (hope?) that this is what many call “travel shock” rearing it’s head but that got me thinking:

1- do people generally think that a wine which has recently been shipped will drink more poorly than a wine which has been resting in a cellar, assuming both wines receive similar treatment before drinking (stood up in advance, decanted, etc.)

2- if yes, is this true for all wines equally? Do certain wines tend to exhibit travel shock more strongly?

3- and if yes, why does this exist? What’s going on chemically to strip a wine of it’s flavor during and just after it is shipped?

Posted while sullenly staring at a dead glass of burg,

Travel shock? Nah, it’s just Burgundy [wink.gif]

This just came up earlier today, though the title is off.

Chemistry? Nah, the soul of the wine has been stripped by being ripped from the bosom of its motherland, to be shipped thousands of miles to someone who can’t even properly pronounce its name. Cowering in your glass, the wine prays for the sweet release of death so that its spirit can ascend to the heavens and rain down on the ancient earth from whence it came.

Or maybe it’s just crappy wine. Who knows? [wow.gif]


First, IMO most Burg’s ARE dead. deadhorse

I have to believe that the only wines that travel well are the Molly Dooker wines. I have shipped wines across country for a golf tournament 5 years in a row and found the wines taste nothing like they did before shipping, for at least 4 days, some longer. Whether wines have souls or complex chemical compounds, a beating by the gorilla working for UPS, FEDEX or the airlines always seem to take a toll on the wine. Conversely, we’ve had wine delivered via truck to our store from nearby distributors/wineries and found them to be spot on after four hours.

If somebody has a million to give away, I’m willing to conduct a study, including chemical analysis to try to answer this question.

Public Service Announcement: the above posts are examples of what can happen to YOU if you post after consuming most of a bottle of 2005 Wagner-Stempel Siefersheimer Riesling Vom Porphyr Trocken, which, by the way, is some killer stuff that would spank the pants of a lot of white Burgundies (even though I also love white Burgundy) to anyone who could actually appreciate that it spanks the pants off a lot of white Burgundies. That is all.

I like your posts when you’ve been drinking wines I would not dare to try to pronounce [welldone.gif]



I think that covers it pretty will. [cheers.gif]

No, travel shock isn’t real but bottling shock seems fairly well-documented and it’s likely that 2009s will still need a few more months to compose themselves, which seems to be the case with the first wines to hit the market in every vintage.

Yes, travel shock is completely true. I’ve seen/tasted it when I have brought wine with me on trips; they’re never the same. As a buyer, you can sometimes taste it when a rep has opened a bottle early in the morning, driven around all day, and when they stop by my store at the end of the day, the wine doesn’t taste “right”. A few times I thought this was the case, I asked for a fresh bottle, and it ALWAYS tastes better. I know Flowers used to (they might still) include a note with their shipments recommending you let the wine sit for a few weeks so it recovers.

Does it happen for all wines?..I don’t know about all wines, but it happens for most wines. IMO, the more fruit forward the wine, the less it appears “shocked”. The more delicate (think Burgs), the more “shocked”. I don’t know if it happens with fortified wines like port.


Put me down as a “maybe.” Esters are in equilibrium with organic acids and alcohols in a wine. Could thermally cycling as wine or rapidly changing the barometric pressure alter the equilibrium point? Maybe. But perhaps the new equilibrium catches lightning in a bottle rather than dumbing the wine down. Who knows.

Freshly fermented wine is definitely out of its long-term stable equilibrium–too many fermentation esters. Ans often too much tartaric acid is dissolved, hence the tendency for wine to throw tartrates as it seeks equilibrium.

Which reminds me, I have accidentally cold-stabilized wines in cooler than necessary storage spots. If the acidity is in equilibrium at room or cellar temp, forcing precipitation might yield a flabby wine. But if you warm a wine up, perhaps some tartrates redissolve . . . .

Short answer: wine is a black box. You don’t know until you open it if it is at its best. I favor stringent experimental controls, however. Tap your cellar while you let new arrivals rest.

So you definitely avoid decanting wine, right? What about swirling it in your glass?

I think your example of the rep having open wine is due to the wine seeing oxygen, not b/c it’s being driven around town. neener

OK, a more serious answer, and apologies to David for the frivolity :wink:

I believe travel shock is a myth for one simple reason: there simply isn’t enough kinetic energy in sloshing a wine around in the bottle (or decanter or glass, for that matter), to disrupt even weak chemical bonds. You need orders of magnitude more energy to do that.

Think about it this way: water is held together by hydrogen bonds, which are far weaker than covalent bonds between atoms in a molecule. Yet, sloshing around a glass of water doesn’t cause it to explode into a gas of individual water molecules.

The act of pouring wine into your glass imparts as much or more energy than carrying the bottle around. So, if you believe in travel shock, your only recourse is to drink the wine very gently out of the bottle with a straw :wink:

Alan (Ph.D. Chemist)

I don’t believe in travel shock.

I can’t think of one reason why wine would be affected by travel except in the stirring up of sediment in old wines.

But I don’t open wines for at least 3-4 weeks after shipping. Even an atheist says a prayer in a foxhole.

I’ve bought a lot of mature wine in my time. The older it is the more time it takes to recover from its journey. Probably nonsense, scientifically, but I’ve experienced it enough to be confident at least for myself.

Yes there’s is travel shock.
I recently bought 3 bottles of Melville Syrah. The first I opened within a day of delivery and really did not like it. The second I opened a few days later after several really nice wines when the party just wanted something to throw down. Sadly, it was still not good. The last I had no hopes for but, again at the end of the night, I opened it for a group of friends and it was completely different and very enjoyable wine.
Either I had two bad bottles out of three or there is travel shock.

I have no disagreement here. The kinetic energy imparted by shaking up a bottle is small compared to even a few degrees change in temperature.

That’s why I’m more interested in “thermal shock” as a potential cause. If you take a bottle from one environment at a given temperature and pressure, then put it in another, it will take some time for the equilibrium reactions to approach their stable state. Whether the wine out of equilibrium is noticeably different, or why it should taste worse and not better, I do not know.

Travel shock is one of those things that’s observed only when someone is looking for a reason a wine is bad. Sort of like claims there are more births on full moons. Perhaps there is “good” thermal/travel shock that just isn’t noticed as readily

Decanting usually improves wine, and that’s a case of warming a wine up 10-15 degrees with some mechanical jostling. But I’ve had wines get dumb or simple after decanting, so it’s not a panacea. I’m thinking the environmental shock could have a similar effect in driving a wine to and from various equilibrium points.

I personally believe that travel shock is real. My hypothesis is that shaking the wine in a reductive environment is bad for it, while shaking it up in an oxidative environment (e.g. swirling it in your glass) is good for it. However, that is my opinion only. I will say to back myself up, that I bought a bunch of 99 Turley Old Vines Zin (my favorite Zin ever) and 2001 Skewis Bush (my favorite Cali pinot ever) and the only bottles I have had that were not 100% spot on were the ones I opened within a few months after shipping. Since then I have been a believer.

However, I am no evangelical. If you don’t believe and want to open your wines immediately after shipping, I have no problem with that.

Funny how most of the responses here disagree with most of the answers in the other, “bottle” shock thread.

Perhaps you drank it on a “root day.”