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Dear Dr. Vinny,
When buying wine online, is it safer to have the wine shipped via ground or air?
—Nancy, Utica, N.Y.
As I recently mentioned to a reader taking an old bottle of wine on a road trip, moving wine over long distances can unsettle a wine, resulting in what is commonly referred to as “bottle shock,” “travel shock” or “bottle sickness.” But I don’t think we can definitely say that road travel is any more or less disruptive than air travel. I’ve been on plenty of bumpy roads and turbulent plane rides (and plenty of smooth ones, too). Also, bottle shock is only a temporary problem, and the wine will typically return to form after a few days if not a few weeks.
Your biggest concern when picking a shipping method is temperature. If there is any risk of exposure to too much heat (or cold), opt for the fastest shipping method. Many wineries won’t even ship during extreme summer heat waves or winter cold snaps.
Also take care to ensure that the wine isn’t left outside when it’s delivered. Consider having it shipped to a business address if possible—you don’t want to miss signing for the package and risk the wine spending another day or two on a truck.
I try to have wines shipped early in the week so that they aren’t stuck in a processing facility over the weekend.
No matter what kind of plane, train or automobile trip your wine goes on, my advice is to let the wine settle for a few days or weeks after travel.
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