~A friend of mine, John Zuccarino, who happens also to be a winemaker and winery owner in the Finger Lakes, recently brought to light the subject of bottle shock. (Incidentally, in Italian, John’s last name is interpreted as “little sugar”—fitting for a winemaker, don’t you think?)
~Bottle shock is a phenomenon that some say does not exist and many say does exist. John pointed out a study that had been written about in 1975 by scientists at the University of California at Davis. One of the writers was among the most respected of American wine researchers, Maynard Amerine.
~Amerine, et al., stated that bottle shock does in fact exist and that it simply is a temporary state of oxidation that can last as much as a month in the bottle and that shows up about a week after the wine had been bottled. It occurs because of the level of oxygen that is introduced into the wine on many—but not all—bottling lines.
The book is more than 30 years old; bottling technology has changed much since then. Not much oxygen gets near most wines during bottling these days, unless the winery is small and/or does not have a tight measure of control over the bottling line.
~Remember the last time you opened a wine that you had tasted once before but found it not to be as good? What happened?
~Possibly, the wine was in a state of bottle shock. But what about that other phenomenon: travel sickness?
~The condition of travel sickness seems mainly based on anecdotal evidence. But sometimes experienced wine industry people find their imports going through a change after having been shipped form port of origin to destination, making the idea of travel sickness a touch above mere anecdotal, especially when these people compare recently received wines with wines already resting in their warehouse.
~If there is such a thing as travel sickness, it likely does not have to do with oxidation, as the wine is sealed and no air should be entering it, at least not enough to cause short term damage.
~Some have pointed out that all living things that travel a long distance seem to react to the journey—they point to how we feel after a long flight.
~Barring the bad food, cramped seating, and general annoyance of flying, how we feel has to do with jet lag, an effect on our circadian rhythm—internal clock.
~A portion of our brain is acclimated to our daily routine and so it expects us to sleep at a certain time of night and be awake at a certain time of day. Traveling across time zones upsets this brain function.
~Based on its cause, it’s difficult to correlate jet lag with what may or may not happen to wine when it travels long distances and across time zones. Many wine geeks refer to wine as having a nose or showing good legs. But I’ve never heard even the most annoying wine geek claim that the product has a brain!
~Last April, Donald A. Dibbern, Jr., posted on wineloverspage.com his explanation of wine travel shock—to me, it has merit.
Put simply, Dibbern claims that travel shock is real and it may have to do with the various interconnections and reactions of colloids and solutions common in wine that, when shaken up, can cause temporary changes in aroma and fruit tastes. After a certain resting period, the wine rebuilds its homogeneous and heterogeneous substances.
~Unfortunately, I've heard and read a few wine professionals talk about bottle shock and travel shock as if they are the same thing. They are not, and neither have anything to do with jet lag, unless you drink a lot of wine before or during a flight—that activity can increase jet lag symptoms, not to mention dehydration.