Bottle Shock

Many times I get asked about the term Bottle Shock” and its impact on wines. It in its benign form bottle shock refers to the confused state when wine is removed from barrel to bottle and usually gets a last adjustment prior to cork placement. This adjustment can include SO2 (sulfite) and or a last acid adjustment (tartaric usually) to zero in a wines final offering for its eternity. If the wine is stable to begin with then the 'shock' is short lived. Bottle shock can be less benign , however, a wine with too
much imbalance (VA volatile acidity for example) or residual sugar, bottled with little or no filtration. These wines can have problems after bottling and never recover from bottle shock. Even worse these wines can give retailers fits. A wine suffering from Bottle shock exhibits flavors that are muted and disjointed. In addition to bottle shock setting in right after bottling is a second scenario when a wine (especially and older more fragile wine is shaken in travel Usually a few days of rest is the cure. The evidence for this phenomenon is more anecdotal than scientific, but the theory is that all the complex elements in wine (phenolics, tannins and compounds) are constantly evolving, both on their own and in relation to each other. Heat or motion can add stress to this evolution, causing the wine to shut down temporarily.
Most wines are fine if you take them from a lying-down position to an upright one. It’s the older, more fragile bottles that need special handling. When a wine hits the 10-year mark or so, there’s probably a fair bit of sediment in it. Sediment is a byproduct of aging wine, as phenolic molecules combine to form tannin polymers that precipitate out of the liquid. Disturbing the sediment won’t necessarily cause the wine to go into bottle shock, but it might be unpleasant to have all that gritty sediment floating around in your wine.
What to do next is a point not always agreed upon. Many people will stand an older bottle upright for at least a couple of days before opening it and decanting it off its sediment. Others say this will disturb the wine too much, and that the sediment will be so released into suspension it will take months to clear up. But if the wine in question is relatively new, without any sediment, you don’t have to worry about it.

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