Shipping by Plane. Problems due to Pressure changes?

Any have any solid facts.

There are no solid facts, because it isn’t a problem. I take wine with me almost everywhere I fly, and it’s just fine, including the day of arrival. I suppose the only exception being if you have an old wine with a lot of sediment, it may be stirred up from motion.

But you’ll get other opinions. My personal guess is that it’s just the backwards-looking search for a reason for something that is mostly just random. “I just opened this bottle of Chateau X, and it wasn’t very good, hmm, ah, it just arrived in the mail three days ago and so it is probably travel shocked!” “My kids are acting crazy, hmm, oh they just had cookies an hour ago it must be the sugar!” “I have a headache from the wine I drank last night, hmm, oh this is probably a wine that added sulfites.” Etc.

I could be wrong. It would be easy enough to test this without just relying on selective anecdotes and gut feelings – take a case of wine, air ship half across the country and back, then taste the 12 bottles blind with a reputable panel of tasters, and see if people can pick out the difference and if the shipped bottles are inferior. I think the fact you’ve never once seen this done is probably the best piece of evidence currently available.

Agree with Chris. Wine Reps travel with product constantly.

IIRC, this was done with a smaller set of wines (3?), using ground transport, once upon a time on another board. The group favored the “travel-shocked” wines.

Traveled with wines to NYC and to Hawaii with no problems. Even a bottle of Champagne.

I think cabin pressure is equivalent to 7K feet.

Rudi said he had to put wax on many of his bottles so they did not explode on his private jet.

Agree with Chris, no problems with air pressure.

Do you only have wine shipped via ground?

Large transports have pressurized cargo compartments so the maximum altitude anybody or thing will see is 8k. Smaller (regional) aircraft do not have pressurized cargo compartments or the pressurization schedule is different from the main cabin and can reach higher altitudes in the cargo holds not to mention they don’t have heaters down there so it will get colder.

I have had no ill effects of flying with wine in the luggage compartment. I have not done this with delicate or really old wine though.

If you can put a dog in the cargo hold, you can put wine in there too, pressurized to 8000 ft. Just a little higher than someplace where nobody drinks wine called Aspen…

I have received new release of Leroy and DRCs with small seepage in the past that were sent via fedex priortiy overnight during good weather condition.

And the odds that the shipping altitude was the cause are negligible.

I had the same experience with DRC and this is exactly my concern. But I have to admit many other things have arrived by air without problems. I went with the group opinion and had no problem, but I am still leary

Any different thoughts on sparkling wine?

Equally a non-issue for sparklers in my experience over multiple trips with multiple bottles.

I often fly Champagne in a wine suitcase for dinners with very little recovery time (typically hours) and have never encountered any issues that I would attribute to transport.

Hi Doug,

I am a commercial airline pilot. Not all holds are survivable for dogs and not all holds are suitable for wines. It depends on the aircraft and there are many other factors such as the fact you can dispatch without the cargo heating being serviceable. This being on the condition any livestock is removed!

I know this subject is an old chestnut. Being in the airline industry and being a collector, as well as using my free air travel to get me from one party to another, I try to follow these simple rules when transporting wine.

  • Assume your back will be dropped from 6 feet onto the tarmac. Insulate accordingly.

  • Assume your wine is going to be put in a freezer. Insulate accordingly.

  • Old wines need some time to recover from the shock of travel. If they are opened early after a journey, they can be very gritty on the palate.

  • If your wines show signs of the corks pushing out a little, assume they have been rapidly cooled, and my best guess is, the differential pressure coupled with a significant temperature change has caused this and the cork has moved. Magnums have been very vulnerable in my experience.

OK, a little sanity check here. Assuming normal atmospheric pressure inside the bottle, and the worst case of a perfect vacuum outside: a 3/4" cork has about 0.44 sq. in. of surface area, times 14.7 lbs/sq in gives about 6.5 lbs of force on the cork. If the cabain is pressurized to the equivalent of 8000 ft, that’s on the order of 10-11 lbs/sq in, so a pressure differential of maybe 5, multipled by 0.44 gives a little over 2 pounds of force on the cork. Doesn’t sound like enough to push any decent cork. Unless there is a serious flaw in the cork, it’s hard to imagine any kind of failure or leakage from this small pressure difference.

I figured this originally when you could still carry wine on a plane. But assuming the worst case of zero pressure outside, you can think about the 6 lbs of force this way: put a corkscrew in the bottle, and hold the bottle by the corkscrew. That’s at least 3 lbs of force. So about 2 bottles worth of force. If a cork will move due to that, you have bigger problems than air pressure.