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Bottle Shock
& Other Wine Quality Mysteries.

I have to confess that whenever I heard the words "bottle shock" or "bottle sickness," I always thought it was a great excuse for the winery rep to use when he opened a bottle that was a real clunker. Well, if cork taint and oxidation are not enough, here's a new one to add to the list of the bad things that can happen to wine. Wine Spectator defines "Bottle Shock" or "Bottle Sickness" as:

BOTTLE SICKNESS: A temporary condition characterized by muted or disjointed fruit flavors. It often occurs immediately after bottling or when wines (usually fragile wines) are shaken in travel. Also called bottle shock. A few days of rest is the cure.

Trust me when I say it takes more than a few days! Back in November we discovered the 1999 Pedroncelli Three Vineyards Cabernet. Fabulous stuff, for only $13.99! I grabbed all 19 cases the distributor had and ordered more. When it showed up, I was all prepared to send out an email touting this great stuff. Luckily, I took a bottle home first. Uck! The bright ruby color was gone and the wine was cloudy, acidic and lacking the rich dark fruit it had displayed before. Fortunately, one of the guys had a bottle from the first sold out batch. We did a side by side tasting with the same disappoint-ing, good wine/bad wine, result. The distributor suggested we quarantine the wine for a month and taste it again before demanding the winery take it back. So, we held on to another bottle from the old batch and waited.

A month later the brand manager, our sales rep and Tom and I conducted a blind tasting and the two wines were indistinguishable. Bright color, rich fruit, low acidity and great structure! I sent a notice to our "Case Buyers" email list and we immediately sold out... leaving me with a dilemma. The winery had some left, do we reorder it? Well, we did and it arrived last week in perfect condition. What happened to the first batch? Who knows... most of today's wines are not, or are very lightly, filtered and fined. This leaves a lot of sediment in the bottle that if shaken enough could disperse in the wine and cause the cloudiness and off flavors we experienced... I think? I was out on the Interstate the other day and as I passed a semi, I noticed that the bed of the trailer was visibly vibrating, probably from a wheel out of balance. Perhaps our Pedroncelii experienced the equivalent of a 2,000 mile ride in vibrating bed.