Summer Wine Shipping guidelines to make sure you're precious cargo makes it to you OK when the temperatures heat up.
It's one of the more common questions we get asked, especially since our Insider Deals ship all year round. And while we touched on it in our article How To Buy Wine Online, we thought it best to give a fuller answer here.
First off, let's look at the science. Tablas Creek Vineyard has a great article explaining just what happens when wine heats up. It turns out the temperature itself isn't necessarily the problem, after all, wine commonly reaches 90 degrees or so during fermentation. The primary problem is oxygen.
As a wine bottle heats up that sealed environment can become compromised and that's when the real trouble happens. Heat causes water to expand which increases the air pressure in the bottle. That air has to go somewhere and the easiest route is either to go around the cork or to push the cork up out of the bottle. Assuming the cork doesn't come completely out, the wine may still be ok even at this point. The real issue is that if oxygen can get out around the cork, it can also likely get in and if that happens the wine is toast.
The good news with all of this is that the signs that the wine has been damaged are easy to spot - wine leaking from around the cork and/or a cork that has been pushed up so that it is no longer flat with the bottle.
If you spot any damage, let the winery or retailer you purchased from right away. Most will replace or refund.
Finally, even if the heat is not enough to cause air to get into the bottle, could it hurt the wine? The short answer is yes, it could cause it to age faster than it would otherwise. However, this is really only a concern for wines that you are planning on cellaring for a long period of time. (And really, if you're buying a wine to cellar for a decade a more just don't have it shipped during the summer period.) In our experience, anything you are buying for near term consumption will be just fine even if it does heat up a bit.
So how do you avoid all of this in the first place (besides just not ordering)? Here are some general summer wine shipping guidelines, all of which we follow with our Insider Deals:
- Use expedited shipping to minimize transit time. (Summer shipping for our Insider Deals is via 2-day delivery.)
- Don't have wine shipped before the weekend to avoid having it sit in a hot warehouse. (All of our deals ship at the beginning of the week just for this reason.)
- Use some form of heat protection. (Our deals ship in styrofoam, which may not be so bad in the grand scheme of things and also does its job extremely well.)
- You can also play a part by making sure you're home to receive the wine on the first attempt and avoiding ordering during any severe heat streaks in your area.