Homebrew Tips: What is Bottle Shock, and why would it affect my wine?

Bottle Shock is a fairly recent discovery for us. It's a term you'll probably come across in winemaking circles, if you haven't already.

What is Bottle Shock?

Bottle Shock is the term used to describe a short-term condition in a wine when its flavours taste one way, only to taste different later on. When you make wine at home it's helpful to know about bottle shock, because it's a condition that can set in immediately after wine is bottled. This means that, however your wine tastes when you bottle it, it is highly unlikely to taste the same way a few days later.

Bottle Shock affects the flavour of your wine

So if your wine doesn't taste as you expected it to when you first bottle it, that may well be because of bottle shock. The flavours might be less defined than usual, a bit disjointed, and the aroma might be muted. In essence, it might seem as though the flavours are not melding together as they should.

The final processes of bottling your wine and then moving it from one room into another can be enough to send it into shock. In practical terms, this means that a newly-bottled wine might have no aroma or flavour at all.

Many of our wine kits produce wine that is theoretically ready to drink in (say) 7 days from start to finish. But they usually state that the wine will benefit from being left a little longer when you've bottled it. A big reason for that is that wines do taste much better once all the flavours have had chance to meld together. But some of the reason will be bottle shock.

Bottle Shock what is it

Nobody can explain exactly why this happens, but there are theories. Wine is a complex mixture of several hundred compounds. After fermentation, wine contains different organic compounds from grapes like polysaccharides and acids, and phenolic compounds like flavonoids and nonflavonoids. One theory is that all these elements in a wine get mixed up when subject to extremes of heat or motion. Heat or motion can shift things temporarily and then, if you leave the bottle in one place for a few days to settle, the taste goes back to normal.

Extremes of Motion can cause Bottle Shock

The fact that motion can also trigger bottle shock means that it's a phenomenon that can affect wines, especially older, fragile ones, when they travel. So if you order an older wine to be delivered to your home, resist opening the wine straight away when it arrives. Instead let it sit for a few days to recover from the journey.

Sounds mad, but it really is 'a thing'. So if you decide to give a bottle of your home brew to someone as a gift, advise them to leave it for a few days before they try it. Because if they lay it in a bag and it has a bumpy ride home and then they drink it immediately, it might not taste as nice compared with waiting a few days. 

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