Handle With Care

"In general, one should assure that wine be transported and stored refrigerated and in an equally cautious fashion as ice cream, fresh produce or milk."

-WFLO Commodity Storage Manual “Wines”, 2008 revision

You’ve likely experienced the disappointment of a good bottle of wine handled carelessly. Maybe it was an old bottle of white Burgundy, pulled from a beer cooler and served as cold as the Rockies, or a great vintage of Barolo stored just the other side of the wood-fired pizza oven. Maybe it was a magnum of Regina Vides resting beneath the eye catching glare of a halogen spotlight. Or maybe it was just a glass of wine that was open too long, served too warm or too cold.

These situations occur all too frequently, but progress begins with awareness. As our collective awareness of the proper standards for storage and service grows, perhaps the most important question a consumer can pose remains unasked: "How was this bottle shipped?"

Sensor

A graph showing a wine shipment that was exposed to temperatures over 100°F while on a truck (May 2016)

The chart above is a temperature reading from this summer from a sensor supplied by Boston based eProvenance. eProvenance provides complete monitoring and analysis services for the shipment conditions of fine wine and art related to temperature, humidity, and geolocation. These devices record the temperature every 4 hours, giving us a clear picture of the shipping conditions of a wine. The dips and spikes are typical readings of diurnal variation for an unrefrigerated shipment. Shockingly, the temperature spikes at over 100 degrees, higher even than the temperature outside when the wine was shipped. The worst part is that this customer paid for a refrigerated truck.

Proper Transport

A graph showing proper temperature handling of a trans-Atlantic shipment (April 2016)

For the past two years we have been working with eProvenance to track shipments with our European suppliers, our overseas warehouses run by Hillebrand, and our freight forwarders’ boats on the water, looking to find breaks in the cold chain. This summer, we collaborated with Western Carriers and our national wholesale and distribution partners to take this project to the next level. eProvenance sensors are placed into cases of wine to record conditions as they are transported across the country. Much of the data we have gathered so far is encouraging and points to progress, but, like the thermometer reading above, not all of the news has been good.

In an increasingly global economy, the issues of provenance and traceability are much more than just buzzwords. Provenance is about maintaining the integrity of the wine from the vineyard to the glass, even if that glass is on the other side of the world. We believe in our products’ ability to communicate a strong sense of place. We believe that these experiences can be meaningful, and our commitment to temperature controlled shipping protects the integrity of the wine and the experience of consumers.

Ostatu Sensor

A temperature sensor from eProvenance attached to cases of Ostatu.

If we to take the importance of site and the hard work of vignerons in earnest, then it is time for change. It is time for consumers and industry professionals to demand more. While industry leaders are needed to lead the charge, it is really the work of educated consumers demanding change that builds momentum and speeds progress. Through coordinated effort, we can advance expectations for the proper care and respect of wine, a respect that begins with temperature controlled transport.

Learn More

For additional reading, please see the links listed below.

World of Fine Wine features eProvenace
"Ensuring you have perfect storage conditions comes to nothing if your wine endures extremes of temperature before it even gets to you."

Decanter features eProvenance
"Fluctuating temperatures during transport may damage more wine than cork taint."

WFLO Commodity Storage Manual: Wines
"Ideally, all wines are stored in refrigerated warehouses and shipped in refrigerated containers/trucks with the temperature exposure continuously logged to assure that the refrigeration system has indeed been working."

Hong Kong Quality Assuarance Agency
The Hong Kong Quality Assurance Agency, a non-profit distributing organization setup by the Hong Kong government to establish best practices and certification for a variety of industries including the storage, transport, and retail of fine and commercial wines.
Wine Storage Management Systems
Wine Storage Management Systems Certification Scheme