ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

I am going to Australia in December. I will spend Christmas with my boyfriend’s family, and they are big wine drinkers. I want to buy a few nice bottles of wine (Caymus, Silver Oak) as a present, but am concerned about bottle shock. I land on Christmas Day, so letting them sit in advance really isn’t an option. I thought about shipping them ahead of time, but I am not sure if I can find a temperature-controlled method to make sure they aren’t ruined. I need help please!

—Dawn, Orlando, Fla.

Dear Dawn,

That’s a really considerate gift, and I can only imagine your boyfriend’s family will be impressed by your thoughtfulness. It sounds like you’re hoping they’ll open the wines when you’re there, and past experience means I should warn you to be clear if that is your intention. Otherwise, it could be interpreted that you’re giving them a Christmas gift or a hostess gift that they could put away and drink at their leisure. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “I was hoping we could share these together, and I’d love to hear what you think about them.”

There are a few things you can do to be cautious about traveling with wine, starting with what wines you pick. Younger, more robust wines will travel better than older or more delicate wines. I’ve heard that unfiltered wines might be more susceptible to travel shock, though I’ve never personally had that experience. Pack the wines securely and with plenty of insulation. And good luck!

—Dr. Vinny


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