Wines

The 3 Precautions to Take When Shipping Wine

The 3 Precautions to Take When Shipping Wine
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You’re having some business partners over for dinner this weekend and you decide to order some nice wine. 

Great idea, but should you drink that wine immediately after it traveled in box on a truck?

It depends. I mean have you seen Ace Ventura

So you need to take precautions and ask yourself a few things.

1. What are the shipment policies of the store you are ordering from?

You don’t want your wine shipped in the really hot or cold months. If it sits on a truck for too long in either extremes, the wine can ruin.

All your reputable online stores will have temperature polices on their sites so look for them. Otherwise call or email customer service before you spend a penny.

“In July and August, the only way we ship wine is with insulated boxes,” says Mike Berkoff, CEO of Bevmax, a wine superstore based in Stamford, Conn.

While some delivery trucks may have refrigerators, plenty of them don’t, so it’s up to the store to ship it properly.

Many, like Gary’s Wine & Marketplace in New Jersey, state that they will not ship any wine “when forecasted temperatures are above 80 degrees in our area or the destination of the order.” And they will hold the order “in a temperature controlled storage facility at no additional cost to you until it is safe to ship.”  But that means you may not get it in time for dinner this weekend if the next few days are going to be super hot. 

Related: The Reason You Need to Buy a 2010 Brunello Today

This is why you need to anticipate decreases in Internet shipments in the summer months.  Go ahead blame Mother Nature for ruining your dinner party.

But the same applies to the extremely cold months, says Berkoff.  “We look at the weather patterns and will it hold if necessary.”

So the good online shops are wine experts and meteorologists all wrapped up in one nice wine box.

Just be sure to confirm.

2. How long was the trip?

Presuming your delivery guy didn’t play Ace-Ventura-soccer with your box of wine, whether you can uncork tonight will really depends on where it’s coming from.

If the online store you order from is in your state, you are probably fine and can drink the wine the day you receive it, say the folks at Gary’s wine. After all, the wines have been resting at the store location and then just have to take a car ride from the warehouse to you.  That’s not too taxing.

“When we receive wines that have been sitting in distributors’ warehouses for several weeks, if not months, then they are good to go that day,” confirms Joe Campanale, executive beverage director/partner at multiple restaurants in Manhattan, including dell'anima and L'Artusi.

Of course, I have ordered from my state only to miss the FedEx guy multiple times because he needs my signature. So that short ride has now become the equivalent of a cross-country wagon train and, so when I finally get that wine, I want to swaddle it in a blanket and sing to it.

In that instance, I would let it and settle for at least week or two.

Same goes for any out-of-state travel. Give it a week to 10 days to relax, say most pros. That means it’s not for dinner tonight. So if you live in Massachusetts and you’re ordering Pinot Noir from Oregon (yum), plan according.

Related: Choosing a Wine to Buy and Hold to Mark a Special Event

3. What type of wine did you order?

Different grapes have different travel tolerance.

Speaking of Pinot Noir, “it is the Paris Hilton of grapes,” says Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, Master of Wine and partner at winering.com.

It’s high maintenance.  It gets airsickness, travel sickness and will need at least a few weeks to recover.

Cabernet and chardonnay are tougher wines. (Ace Ventura beware.) So may not need as much down time.

But travel sickness, a.k.a. travel shock, is a real thing. (Heck, I get travel shock every I take vacation with my kids.)

The wine actually can have a “dumb phase,” says Simonetti-Bryan.  That basically means it goes to sleep for a bit, so it has no smell or flavor.  But then you wait a few weeks and, like Sleeping Beauty, it wakes up again.

Now, while all wines are sensitive to extreme temperatures, your expensive stuff, like your Champagnes or Bordeauxs, will probably get white-glove treatment throughout their entire journey. 

Champagne, especially, needs to be treated like the Queen it is because if the temperature gets too high and it gets warm, the effervescence will basically cause it to explode.

Definitely be cautious and give these wines a few weeks to get used to your home before you open them.

On the flipside, wines like Madeira and Port are basically indestructible because they were created as far back as the 16th century and had to survive long journey from Portugal to England, says Simonetti-Bryan. So open them, leave them unfinished on the counter for weeks, do what you want with them.

Now just a heads up: Many producers will ask you to let your bottles sit for eight weeks after delivery to ensure perfect quality. That is super-conservative and they generally state that to cover their own toocheses. Again, the consensus is that two weeks should do it.   

And lastly, if you happen to open a bottle and find it just doesn’t taste right, even after you let it sit for a few weeks, bring it back to the store, says Simonetti-Bryan. It will help the producer figure out what happened for the future.

So plan ahead.  Dinner party on Friday, wine from across the country? Just like you would need at least few days to recoup after that trip, so will your wine.

Related: How Much Do You Tip for a Bottle of Wine?