When wines gets sick

June 18th, 2020 | Bottles and bottling

For the past few months all talk has been concentrated around a certain virus – but what happens when a bottle of wine gets ‘sick’?

I should start by saying don’t worry, you can’t catch this virus from drinking wine! I am talking about a completely different thing…. bottle sickness. So what is bottle sickness and how does it affect what we drink? Well, to be honest, this problem is much more likely to be picked up by professionals when a wine is first shipped, and will normally have recovered well before the time it reaches you.

It is a phenomenon caused by travel, when the bottles are shipped over long distances, whether it be by road, sea or air. It can also occur when a wine has been recently bottled, again as the result of it being badly ‘shaken up’ – it simply needs time to recover (up to one or two weeks after a long trip)! It is difficult to pinpoint exactly why this occurs, but the effect, in the short-term, can be quite significant. The wine simply ‘closes down’ as many of the usual aromas and flavours that you would normally expect are simply not present. In addition, it can even appear to be a little thin and insipid. At this moment the wine can be described as ‘dumb’ (which in wine parlance does not mean stupid!).

It is important to know that this ‘sickness’ will not occur on your journey home from the wine shop or supermarket. However, if your wine is a little ‘closed up’ when you first open it, this could be just a touch of sulphur (added as protection at bottling). Simply swirl your glass and give it a few minutes to open up again – the best things are always worth waiting for!


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