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Dear Dr. Vinny,
I’m driving to New York for Christmas and want to bring an old, large-format bottle of wine with me. I’m worried about how it will fare on the car ride, after which it would pretty much be opened right away. Someone suggested standing it up for the journey. Do you have any advice?
—Michael, Charlotte, N.C.
Good question. You’ve got two concerns here—handling an older bottle of wine, and trying to avoid travel shock, aka bottle shock.
Older wines often have sediment that can get disturbed if the bottle is shaken or jostled around. While it’s harmless to consume, sediment can be unpleasantly gritty. Shock, sometimes called “bottle sickness,” is an anecdotal phenomenon that a wine can get stressed from motion and suffer from a wine version of jet lag.
I think standing it up is a great idea. That way, you’re letting gravity work to keep the sediment down at the bottom of the bottle, even with the inevitable sloshing around that’s going to happen. Pad your bottle with pillows or cushions and make sure it’s secure. Pick a part of your car that is most stable, both in terms of temperature and movement—away from wheel wells, and not in the trunk or a truck bed.
When you arrive at your destination, keep the bottle upright and let it settle as long as possible so that the sediment can continue to collect at the bottom. You’ll probably want to decant the wine to help further separate the sediment—check out our recent how-to video for a primer!
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