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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I've heard the term “bottle shock” in reference to wine that has been shipped. Can a rough ride damage wine? If so, how about the "Mollydooker shake"?

—Rob L., Regina, Saskatchewan

Dear Rob,

Talking about “bottle shock” or “bottle sickness” can be tricky because there really isn’t any scientific evidence that it's real. There is, however, plenty of anecdotal evidence. Think of it as wine suffering from jet lag, with all the stress and motion of travel giving a wine’s phenolics and chemical compounds a rough time. After traveling—including a rough ride in your car—a wine can seem flat and muted or just a little strange for a period of time—usually just days or weeks. Older, more fragile wines seem to be more susceptible than young, more robust wines.

Because of the bottle shock phenomenon, I advise that before opening a bottle of wine that has been shipped to you, let it rest for a few days or weeks—preferably in a cool, dark place.

The “Mollydooker shake” is something completely different, and doesn’t have anything to do with bottles shock. Rather, it is a process the Australian producer recommends before serving most of their wines. They suggest pouring out half a glass of wine, putting the cap back in, inverting the bottle and giving it a vigorous shake. This is because Mollydooker uses the inert gas nitrogen to help preserve their wines, which can flatten the wine’s flavors. Giving the wines a shake helps the nitrogen gather into tiny bubbles that then easily dissipate.

So, what happens when you put the two together? Do you let a Mollydooker wine relax … only to give it a shake?

I checked in with Mollydooker winemaker Sparky Marquis. He said that it’s not necessary to have a wine settle before doing the Mollydooker shake. “In fact,” he told me, “when you do the Mollydooker shake, it probably moves the wine around even more than the FedEx guy does. And we do this every time we open a Mollydooker.”

—Dr. Vinny

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