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Snooth User: Philip James

Do imported wines age faster

Posted by Philip James, Jul 5, 2007.

I blogged about what upsets wine a few weeks back. It got me thinking. I've seen how wines are imported into the country - shaken about while the containers are manhandled, rolling around on the high seas as they travel over the oceans, baked by the sun while sitting on the dock waiting for customs clearance, trucked around the country. This process can take anything from 4-10 weeks, depending on where the wine is coming from and how slow customs decides to be that day.

I think at this point its clear that the bottle in my fridge for 2 months isn't being harmed from standing upright, being close to the motor and glimpsing the odd burst of light when I open the door. But, what about wines meant for aging?

There's two options: either these things don't matter THAT much, or imported wine ages faster than the same wine stored in a cool, damp cellar near its town of origin.

I want to be able to taste two 30 year old European wine's. One that was imported into the US while young, then aged in a cellar, the second carefully left in a French Chateau's cellar. Then we'd see the difference.


Blog comment by Rodolphe, Jul 10, 2007.

I think this line of questioning is bunkum.

Why pick on imported wines? Who knows where the domestic wines were stored. Its not like most California wineries actually have cool, damp cellars underneath their wineries. Most of their wines are stored in Industrial warehouses... and sometimes those get rather hot (

Similarly, who knows how the domestic wines are transported to market. Is it on the back of some 18-wheeler driving across the great plains in the middle of summer? Where and how are the precious pallets stored when they are cross-docked through Salt Lake City, Saint Louis, or Chicago?

Moreover, shippers and importers take some precautions to protect the wines that they import. Many limit their imports during the summer months to reduce the potential for heat damage. Insulated and even refrigerated containers are used to keep the wines at a relatively constant temperature. Containers filled with wine are some of the densest and heaviest that you can find on a ship (its a box filled with glass and water!).

To reduce the rocking motions of the sea (and to provide ballast and increase the ship's moment), the heaviest containers are stored at the bottom... where they sway the least and are least prone to temperature variations... while lighter containers filled with more inert substances get stuck on top.

The real question is do wines shipped young age differently than wines that stayed at (or near) the site of production. Part of me thinks that this is wine frippery like rinsing out glasses with water between wines, while another part thinks that there is some merit here.

Now, if only you can find me a Magnum of 1967 Palmer that has been in the US for 38 years so that I can compare it to the one I drank at the Chateau last month...

Reply by dmcker, Mar 26, 2010.

Though I'm not in the habit of dredging up ancient threads, this one seemed interesting enough to bring back to the top of the heap.

My experience is that exported (or imported, depending on your perspective) wine does age faster than that resting in winery cellars, though I've had several that did well nonetheless. Had a couple of cases of '59s (Latour and La Mission Haut Brion) and '61s (Mouton Rothschild and Haut Brion) that traveled from France to San Francisco (importer)/Los Gatos (owner) where I picked them up at the beginning of the '80s and carried them via plane to Tokyo. Both sites ex-France had good passive cellars. Great, great drinking (some of the best I've ever had) between the late '80s and last year when I finished the last La Mission. Still wonder how much better they might've been if stored back at the winery all the while.

I'm well versed with most all the possible pitfalls for wine shipping to Japan, and there can be huge amounts of stress involved. Any bottles I've bought via even the best commercial routes here (and I helped make sure refrigerated containers became the norm back in the '90s) seem a lot more tired, a lot earlier.

Anyone else care to weigh in on this subject?

Reply by amour, Mar 27, 2010.

Well said....This is why we kept our best wines at the Cellars of Berry Bros.& Rudd in London.

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